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Missouri voters pass 'Right to Farm' amendment by slim margin

In a night filled with anxiety and uncertainty, those that gathered for a watch party at the Missouri Farming Bureau Center in Jefferson City were relieved to see their hard work pay off as Missouri voters passed amendment one on Thursday night with an unofficial 50.13 percent of the vote.

Missouri Farming Bureau President Blake Hurst has been with the bureau for 35 years. He said he believes the Right to Farm amendment will protect Missouri farmers from restrictions that would limit the use of technology.

KBIA's expanded coverage of Amendment 1

  “This was necessary because of the movements that we have seen all across the country, and here in Missouri, to try to change agriculture in a way that would have harmed consumers,” Hurst said. “Just in the past few months we’ve seen ballot initiatives passed in California, Oregon and Hawaii that have denied farmers safe and efficient technology. That’s why what we did here this evening is so very important.”

Missouri State Rep. Bill Reiboldt (R) originally sponsored the right-to-farm amendment in the Missouri House of representatives. The amendment is said to, “ensure that the right of Missouri citizens to engage in agricultural production and ranching practices shall not be infringed.”

It is the potential implications of the verbiage used in the right-to-farm amendment that has been debated over the past few months.

Supporters argue that interest groups, including the Humane Society of the United States, have been attempting to restrict agricultural practices in the state. This argument dates back to 2010 when the Humane Society supported Proposition B, which required owners of 10 or more owners to meet certain requirements. 

“What you’ve seen in Oregon is farmers are being forced to plow down perennial crops because the seeds that they use are no longer legal in that particular state,” Hurst said. “I think this protects us against that.”

But opponents claimed that the language of the amendment is too vague and that it leaves room for interpretation. Opponents believe large agribusiness operations could take advantage of the language used in the amendment, which they believe could give larger farms unintended protections.

“I suppose they caught us off guard on this issue,” Davis said. “But we definitely see that we could do more, and that we have an eclectic group of people interested. I think that those people are now motivated.”

North Dakota is the only state that has passed a similar constitutional amendment to the right-to-farm proposition that Missouri citizens voted on. There have yet to be any major court cases in North Dakota related to the state’s right-to-farm amendment.

“We actually called up and inquired to farmers in North Dakota to see if they have seen any increase in litigation,” Hurst said. “The answer is that not a single case has been litigated in two years since they’ve passed theirs. I fully expect that to be the case here in Missouri, as well.”

Brandon Kiley is a student newscaster.
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