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What the Governor's Veto Message of
House Bill 1222 Should Have Been
The Sons and Daughters of Liberty (Pennsylvania)

Prefatory Note: On December 31, 2003, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell vetoed House Bill 1222 -- legislation introduced by agribusiness corporations to strip away local control over corporate factory farms in Pennsylvania. In addition to the act of vetoing, the Governor released a Veto Message which explained that the Governor actually supported the goals of the legislation, but preferred a more comprehensive approach to what he termed “nutrient management.” (a copy of the Governor's Message is at The below Veto Message was drafted by the Sons and Daughters of Liberty -- a network of Pennsylvanians working to confront the power that corporations wield over communities in the Commonwealth. That network has drafted a Veto Message that should have been delivered by the Governor.

What the Governor's Veto Message of
House Bill 1222 Should Have Been

Drafted by the Sons and Daughters of Liberty (Pennsylvania)
For more information on the Sons and Daughters of Liberty, see



I am returning herewith, without my approval, House Bill 1222, Printer's No. 3127, entitled “AN ACT” amending Title 42 (Judiciary and Judicial Procedure) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, further providing for identification of incorrect debtor; further defining "other specified offense" for purposes of DNA data and testing; and further providing for summary offenses involving vehicles, for law enforcement records, for duration of commitment and review; ESTABLISHING A CAUSE OF ACTION FOR UNAUTHORIZED ENACTMENT OR ENFORCEMENT OF LOCAL ORDINANCES GOVERNING AGRICULTURAL OPERATIONS; PROVIDING FOR CERTAIN ATTORNEY FEES AND COSTS; AND FURTHER PROVIDING for sentence of intermediate punishment and for assessments.

          For starters, let's look at our own Pennsylvania Constitution.

          Article I, § 2 declares that “all power is inherent in the people, and all free governments are founded on their authority.” Article 1, § 26 declares that the Commonwealth shall not “deny to any person the enjoyment of any civil right.” Article 1, § 27 of our Constitution declares that the people “have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of” the natural environment.

          Thus, people are the source of all political authority, governments are established to secure people's rights, and people have a right to the protection of the natural environment.

          Accordingly, I am returning House Bill 1222 to the legislature unsigned because I find that the Bill tramples our constitutional ideals of self-government while strengthening the ability of agribusiness corporations to eliminate family farmers, destroy rural communities, and further harm people's health and the safety of their food.

          Although previous administrations have flouted the Constitution and the ideal of self-government, I refuse to do so. I, like the people who drafted the Pennsylvania Constitution, believe that governments exist to serve the majority of people, not the corporate few.

          Who has been clamoring for legislation like House Bill 1222? This legislative travesty is not the result of a great democratic groundswell, but is being pressed, instead, by a few organizations invested in corporate agriculture. Thus, I do not find it unusual that one of the principal advocates for House Bill 1222 has been the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau.

          Because of past experiences, I've taken the time to learn what the Farm Bureau is.

          The Pennsylvania Farm Bureau and its parent organization, the American Farm Bureau Federation, are lobbying arms for agribusiness corporations. Indeed, the first Farm Bureau in the country was created not by men and women of the soil, but by a New York State Chamber of Commerce. The vast majority of Farm Bureau “members” are either policyholders of one of numerous insurance corporations affiliated with state Farm Bureaus, or are customers of other farm bureau business ventures. Such “members” have no say in establishing or carrying out Farm Bureau policies. In most cases, they don't even have a particular interest in agriculture. The Farm Bureau is not a democratic institution. It is run by a few for the benefit of a few.

          I believe that the Farm Bureau -- and groups like PennAg Industries Association -- exist to impose a corporate food system on the many that benefits the corporate few. They lie about Pennsylvania needing more industrial farms, and urge legislators to turn more control over farming to the distant boardrooms of agribusiness corporations. They say there's no other way to grow food.

          Horsefeathers. Let's look at who's in charge of food in the United States and who has benefited from that control.

          Currently, four corporations control over 70% of pork production in the United States and over 80% of beef production. Fewer than five corporations control 90% of the export market for most major crops, and 10 cents of every food dollar spent in this country now goes to that friend of public health, the Philip Morris Corporation.

          This corporate dominance of agriculture has been a disaster for family farmers, rural communities, and everyone who eats.

          Over the past twenty years, a handful of agribusiness corporations has managed to eliminate over 300,000 family farmers -- and over 3,000 independent family hog farmers in Pennsylvania alone. According to the USDA, 6% of all farms -- the large corporate farms -- now receive 59% of all farm revenue. Middle-sized farms with gross sales under $100,000 are now being eliminated at a faster pace than any other group of farms.

          As independent family farmers are consumed by agribusiness corporations -- or shoved into bankruptcy -- economic competitors are eliminated, and agribusiness corporations are left with a deepening economic monopoly. That economic control has resulted in the creation of a political monopoly over Pennsylvania's legislative Agriculture Committees, which now foolishly refer to factory farms as “advanced” farms.

          That's quite a dead-end vision for Pennsylvania -- one which drives dollars from our family-farm based rural communities into the deep pockets of a distant corporate few.

          True to their revolutionary heritage, Pennsylvanians have not been taking this lying down. Many understand the underlying truth of what is happening.

          A Chairman of a Board of Supervisors in Fulton County declared defiantly last year, “I was elected to represent the people of this Township, not factory farm corporations.” That Township has become one of several to adopt local laws to stop the corporatization of agriculture in the Commonwealth.

          I, too, understand what is happening. I support those Township Supervisors and their rural communities across this State. I will not be a party to their destruction.

          I know that I didn't get overwhelming support from rural Pennsylvania voters in the last election. We've got some basic differences. But I also believe that we share a core value -- that the corporate few should never dictate the rules to the rest of us.

          And that's what House Bill 1222 is really about. It's about trampling on the power of people to make decisions about the future of your community. It's about corporations using the people's legislature to claim that corporate “rights” override the rights of people and the land.

          I believe that the ideal of democracy is in big trouble, precisely because corporations have been preventing “We the People” from governing ourselves.

          I believe corporations today act like governments. Energy corporations make our energy policies. Insurance corporations define the healthcare we receive. Corporate polluters write our environmental laws. Transnational corporations override state and national laws through global corporate rights agreements like NAFTA. Military contracting corporations determine our foreign policy.

          Their wealth and power trample people and communities -- along with the ideal of democracy -- everyday across this nation of ours.

          As if that's not enough, corporations now claim the protections of rights and privileges found in the Constitution and our Bill of Rights. Rights and privileges originally intended to only protect people. Today, corporations wielding those rights and privileges crush -- and then seek to punish -- communities and elected officials daring to practice democracy.

          Several stories have struck me over the past year -- awakening me to this corporate trampling of self-government. In small, rural Belfast Township in Fulton County, residents told their local elected officials that they didn't want corporate factory farms. So, the Supervisors adopted an Ordinance prohibiting agribusiness corporations from farming within the Township.

          Small, rural Rush Township in Centre County had faced the death of Tony Behun, a child who died after being exposed to corporate-hauled and land applied sewage sludge. Residents and their elected Supervisors, like many before them, found that comforting the bereaved family of a dead child was simply not enough. To make sure that no one else died from the actions of sludge corporations, the Township adopted a local law requiring the corporations to prove to the Township that the sludge was safe prior to land application.

          What happened next? Agribusiness corporate interests swooped in and sued Belfast Township. Synagro Corporation descended on Rush Township. In both cases, the corporations sued the communities for violating what they called “corporate constitutional rights.” Demanding millions of dollars from the Townships, they are pursuing the Township Supervisors individually and personally for payment of those damages.

          Township Supervisors taking such courageous stands on behalf of the people in their community has been both costly and dangerous. It has threatened to bankrupt several Township governments. I don't like that one bit.

          Now, I've read our Pennsylvania Constitution. I've read our U.S. Bill of Rights.

          I don't believe that either document confers constitutional rights -- originally intended only for people -- onto corporations, thus enabling them to override democratically-adopted laws.

          Laws like House Bill 1222 make things even worse by enabling corporations to take decisions that should be made at the local level and removing them into the Courts -- far from local legislators. What's more, laws like House Bill 1222 seek to punish elected officials for daring to actually represent the values of their communities. I find those goals appallingly counter to the ideal of self-government.

          House Bill 1222 all but guarantees that people will become powerless to make the rules for their communities.

          Which brings us to the real question. Who will make the rules in the future?

          Will it continue to be faceless, unelected corporate managers located far away from Pennsylvania's rural communities -- acting like puppetmasters with legislators dangling on long distance strings? Or will it be the many Pennsylvania families -- who live, work, and raise children in rural Pennsylvania -- who are confronting and resisting the corporate takeover of their communities? Those families fervently believe that it is possible to produce clean and nutritious food in vibrant rural communities, anchored by healthy family farms supported by people who eat.

          Today, I stand with those Pennsylvania families and their vision for this Commonwealth.

          I call on the legislature -- Democrats and Republicans alike -- to stop turning corporate wish lists into laws that trash local self-government, undermine democratic institutions, and destroy independent family farmers.

          For the reasons set forth above, I must withhold my signature from House Bill 1222 and I am returning the Bill to the House of Representatives.


Edward G. Rendell


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