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Posted Monday, April 18, 2011, at 9:58 AM

Agriculture, the number one industry in Missouri, drives of our rural economy in the 163rd District. Many of us depend on the money farmers spend in the area for our own livelihood. We have a great appreciation of our farming community being profitable, as we all benefit from it.

As a representative from a district so dependent on agricultural, it is my goal to protect and enhance our farming operations in the region. That includes protecting our farmers from being sued numerous times under Missouri's nuisance statutes. Last week, the House gave final approval to HB 209 which restricts nuisance lawsuits.

Previously, the damage awards in a nuisance case were unlimited. A neighbor could sue a farmer for just about anything, and a jury could make the farmer pay millions under the nuisance statute, even if their property was worth much less.

HB 209 limits the amount that can be awarded in these cases. The bill separates the nuisance properties into two categories, permanent and temporary. If a property is a permanent nuisance, then the maximum damage award will be the fair market value of the property claiming the nuisance. For example, if the property claiming the nuisance is worth $10,000, then the highest damage award will be $10,000.

If the nuisance is temporary, the maximum damage award will be the fair rental value of the property claiming the nuisance. If the land normally rents for $600, and the most the landowner can get is $300, then the damages would be $300 ($600-$300).

These lawsuits are most closely associated with Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). Often, the alleged bad acts are smell or noise which commonly hinders CAFOs. However, these suits can be brought against row crop farmers and are often a result of normal operation. For example, our farmers in the Bootheel could be sued for the dust created when planting or harvesting their crops. HB 209 will protect our farmers from being bankrupted by these suits.

After initial approval was given in February, HB 209 was strengthened and more clearly defined. Through the diligent efforts of my fellow Republican legislators in Southeast Missouri, especially Rep. Todd Richardson R-Poplar Bluff, we were able to change this bill in the Senate and protect our farmers even more.

One change ensured that we didn't prohibit the recovery of any damages relating to crop destruction, crop damage, seed or grain contamination, herbicide drift or other reductions in crop values.

This was important to our farmers in Southeast Missouri. You may recall the suit that the many of our rice farmers have against Bayer Crop Science. This suit was filed because the rice supply was contaminated with Bayer's genetically modified rice. The price of rice plummeted because of the news, and Europe wouldn't even accept our rice.

HB 209 protects farmers from being sued over and over again through the nuisance statute. Yet we ensured that our farmers had a path to recourse if they were wronged. HB 209 now goes to the governor for his approval.

We also had several visitors at the Capitol this week. On Monday, five students from the district came to Jefferson City for the Sophomore Pilgrimage. Women's groups from across Southeast Missouri pay for a charter bus and hotel stay allowing these students to come to the Capitol. The students are chosen based on their character and leadership abilities. We hosted 34 students and 6 chaperones this year. Five students were from the 163rd District: Austin Shelton-Malden, D'Erika Rucker-Clarkton, Brittany Davis-Campbell, Jay Edgington-Kennett and Hunter Satterfield-Kennett. I would like to thank them and the chaperones for coming. We hope you enjoyed your Capitol.

I would also like to thank Phillip Britt and his four program graduates; Cheryl White, Jimmy Chambers and Ann Lawrence from the SEMO Health Network in Bernie; and Gary Murphy and Alex Clark from the Rice Council for coming to their Capitol this week.

As always, it is an honor to serve you in the Missouri House. If you would like to discuss any issue, please call 573-751-3629. You can also email me at Kent.Hampton@house.mo.gov. I look forward to hearing from you.

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163rd Capitol Report
Rep. Kent Hampton - 163rd District
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