Does American agriculture need ‘right to farm’ laws?
There’s a new “freedom” that could soon be added to Missouri’s Constitution – the right to farm.
According to the Associated Press, many in the state want to declare farming a “right” at the state level in Missouri as part of a wider campaign to fortify the industry against animal right activists and opponents of genetically modified crops.
"A couple of years from now, we might say this was the beginning of the trend," Rusty Rumley, a senior staff attorney at the National Agricultural Law Center in Fayetteville, Ark., told the Associated Press. “But we really don't even know what they're going to mean."
In Missouri, that means protecting the state’s $11 billion per year industry from attacks made by out-of-state interest groups, such as the HSUS-backed Proposition B in 2010, which sought to change some of the rules for operating “puppy mills” in the state; however, many within the industry feared it was a foot-in-the-door “domestic animal” regulation, which could also include livestock.
“If out-of-state interests can limit a dog breeder to 50 dogs, why not limit a hog farm to 50 hogs? Or a cattle ranch to 50 cattle? Or an accounting firm to 50 accountants?” Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster said in an article from the Fulton (Mo.) Sun.
The right-to-farm movement has been successful in many other states across the Corn Belt, including North Dakota and Indiana. A similar measure passed through both chambers of the Oklahoma Legislature earlier this year before dying in a conference committee.
Some within the industry, such as Missouri farmer Neal Bredehoeft, stands behind Amendment One, better known as the “Right to Farm."
"Agriculture's had a lot folks that's been trying to come down on our farms and tell us what we can and cannot do," said Bredehoeft. "This gives us a little bit of protection."
Not everyone within the industry supports the move. Wes Shoemyer, a Missouri farmer, former state senator, and founder of the group Missouri’s Food for America, believes the potential for lawsuits is one reason to vote against the amendment.
“All these regulations that are in statute today will be subject to a court challenge,” Shoemyer said. “When someone is given a constitutional right, it’s their right to do what they want on their land, subject to definition by the courts,” he said.
Groups outside of the state have chimed in as well. The Iowa Pork Producers Association points that Iowa doesn’t need a similar measure.
"We're aware of the right-to-farm amendment in Missouri … but we're getting along just fine without an amendment," Ron Birkenholz, a spokesman for the IPPA, told the Des Moines Register. "Iowa is an agricultural state, and we've been farming for centuries without problems."
Politicians are also divided on the measure. Missouri Gov. Gay Nixon broke his silence on the subject last week, announcing he was leaning toward opposing the measure. Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, however, supports the amendment.
Amendment One goes to Missouri voters in an Aug. 5 election.
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