Lately, it seems as though there has been a lot of bad news when it comes to elections, but the farmers in Missouri are hoping that they can avoid those results and protect their way of life. On August 5, Missouri voters will be decided on whether or not to add a “Right to Farm” amendment to the Missouri Constitution.
No doubt Missouri farmers have seen the types of ballot initiatives that have been introduced in other states, with some of the worst ones actually passing. To name a few, North Dakota had Proposal 5, which was – thankfully – soundly defeated. California tried to make GMO labeling mandatory in their state through Proposition 37. And who can forget the absolutely absurd ballot proposal that just passed in Oregon, which put in place a complete and total ban on growing GMOs in Jackson County.
Missouri has acted as a leader for combating these types of laws. In fact, Missouri filed a federal lawsuit against California for requiring out of state chicken farmers comply with California’s regulations. Other states later joined the lawsuit. (No surprise then that Missouri’s Attorney General has come out in favor of the amendment, while the Governor of the state has not.)
Missouri’s right to farm amendment certainly isn’t the first of its kind. All 50 states have some type of “right to farm” laws, though they can vary widely across the country. Michigan, for example, only protects farmers from nuisance suits. On the other hand, North Dakota had a similar ballot measure that passed in 2012. That measure also sought to protect various farming methods in the state.
The important portion of the ballot proposal reads:
“That agriculture which provides food, energy, health benefits, and security is the foundation and stabilizing force of Missouri’s economy. To protect this vital sector of Missouri’s economy, the right of farmers and ranchers to engage in farming and ranching practices shall be forever guaranteed in this state, subject to duly authorized powers, if any, conferred by article VI of the Constitution of Missouri.”
You can also click here for the entire ballot language.
Opponents of the ballot language have charged that it would exempt farmers from state and local regulations and give farms a “blank check.” As can be expected, many of the opponents have tried to tie the amendment to “Big Ag,” including Monsanto and Cargill. In addition, HSUS just cut a $375,000 check to the PAC opposing the amendment. While it might be nice to have a blank check, such claims are preposterous. State and local ordinances and laws will still be enforceable against farmers. State and local ordinances are also derived from the Constitution and would be interpreted in conjunction with the new amendment.
Now, I don’t live in Missouri, but I do like ballot measures that give our farmers a bit more protection and allow them to do their job. As I spelled out earlier, there has been a lot of activity by anti-farming groups that have caused problems in other states. When you’re faced with the type of opponents that would completely ban your livelihood, even when your methods of production have been found absolutely safe, there is a right to worry. Common sense has left the debate and I can’t blame Missouri farmers for wanting additional protection.
If you live in Missouri, you can check out who else is supporting the Amendment and even add your own name to the list by clicking here. If you’d like to learn more, you can head over to Missouri Farm Bureau’s page “Keep Missouri Farming” or Missouri Farmer’s Care’s page.