Election primer: Amendment 1 and 'Right to Farm'
The August 5, 2014 primary election ballot includes five proposals for amendments to the Missouri constitution. Amendment 1, commonly referred to as the 'Right to Farm' amendment, would add a section 35 to Article I of the state constitution.
As with most amendments, there are differences between the language that appears on a ballot, and the language that would be enacted if the amendment passes. Section 35 would read as follows.
Section 35. 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.
Agricultural protection laws are nothing new to Missouri or the Midwest. According to Janie Hipp, professor of Law at the University of Arkansas, legislation has historically focused on targeted exemptions, such as allowing farm equipment to use public roads, and 'grandfather exemptions' from nuisance lawsuits as developments expand.
As Harvest Public Media's Peggy Lowe reported in November of 2012, North Dakota became the first state to enact legislation protecting "The right of farmers and ranchers to engage in modern farming and ranching practices shall be forever guaranteed in this state. No law shall be enacted which abridges the right of farmers and ranchers to employ agricultural technology, modern livestock production and ranching practices." Not long after, Missouri legislators introduced similar legislation.
In 2010, Missouri voters passed the "Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act" which placed restrictions on how the animals could be kept and raised. As statehouse reporter Marshall Griffin noted, many of those impacted by the law were farmers that bred dogs as a side business. "They voiced numerous concerns, one being that following the example of the 50 dog-per-breeder rule, animal rights and environmental groups might go to court to try and limit the number of farm animals a person could own. Several variations of the proposal were floated in the Missouri House and Senate until one was finally passed by both chambers last year –House Joint Resolutions 11 and 7, now known as Constitutional Amendment 1."
U.S. Congress members are throwing their support behind a proposed “right to farm” amendment in Missouri’s constitution. But critics are pointing to the measure’s ambiguous language as problematic.
Do Missouri’s farmers and ranchers need a constitutional amendment to continue their way of life, or does current law offer enough protection? That’s the debate surrounding one of the five ballot measures Missouri voters will decide next month. Supporters and opponents are campaigning and spending money on efforts to both pass and kill the proposal that could limit regulations on farming and ranching.
Though the “right to farm” provision is focused on agriculture, it has pitted farmer against farmer with some worried that the results could change the face of farming in the Midwest.
"The passage of this amendment will continue to allow agriculture to be subject to reasonable regulation in our state. But future regulation must serve an important state interest and may not be arbitrary or prejudicial in nature." - . Chris Koster
“Constitutions are for the people by the people, not for the corporations by corporations. And take a hard look at this. Ask yourself, should we be giving in our Bill of Rights in Missouri’s Constitution the right to farm to large corporations, multi-national corporations across this state?” - Joe Maxwell