Missouri Law Protects Agricultural Facilities From Inspections By Out Of State Organizations

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Missouri Bill HB 574,  approved by the Governor on June 10, 2021, effective on August 28, 2021, “prohibits the inspection of certain grounds or facilities in Missouri to enforce the laws of a state other than Missouri,” more specifically,

This bill specifies that the Missouri Department of Agriculture, Department of Natural Resources, the United States Department of Agriculture, the county sheriff and any other federal or Missouri state agency with statutory or regulatory authority have exclusive authority to inspect the grounds or facilities in Missouri used for the production of eggs, milk or other dairy products, or raising of livestock. Unless requested by the owner of the facility, no other entity may inspect the grounds or facilities to enforce or carry out the laws or administrative rules of the state or that of another state.

Notably, this would still allow the owner of a facility to provide an out of state entity permission to inspect their facility, if they, for example, wanted to be able to sell certain agricultural products into another state that requires inspection (e.g., California Prop 12 requirements).

This should help protect agricultural facilities in the State from unauthorized seizures by animal rights organizations, but may not be protective if local law enforcement engages such entities to assist in alleged animal cruelty investigations pursuant to valid search warrants.  The law further provides,

No testimony or evidence offered regarding conditions or events at the described facilities by anyone other than those authorized may be admissible in any criminal prosecution unless the testimony is offered by someone who is authorized by the owner to be present at the facility or grounds, a person who entered pursuant to a valid search warrant, or a person who observed the condition or event from public land or private land owned or rented by such person.

Whether this law will be challenged by animal rights organizations, some of whom opposed the bill remains to be seen.  The opponents stated that “[t]hose who oppose the bill say that the portion of the bill limiting evidence is too strict and would not allow whistle blowers to testify even if they are on the property under proper pretenses.”  It is unclear what those “proper pretenses” would be, since, as the law specifies, only “evidence gained inspecting a facility without proper authority could not be used in court.”  (Double-negative in original text).

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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