Critics of the so-called 'right to farm' amendment to Missouri’s state Constitution brought their case to the state Supreme Court Wednesday.
The amendment is meant to protect Missouri farmers from new laws that would change current farm practices they currently use.
Critics of the amendment, including many small farmers and animal rights groups, say the wording of the statute opens the door for foreign corporations to exploit Missouri farmland. The ballot language voters saw in November 2014 specified protection for “Missouri citizens.” But the actual amendment language does not.
Wes Shoemyer of Missouri Food for America contends this ambiguity not only confused voters, but it leaves the door open for foreign corporations to exploit Missouri farm laws. He points to the Chinese-owned Smithfield Foods operating the largest pork producer as an example.
“They certainly won’t have the same interest for our rural communities and rural schools and for our workers that family farmers -- especially our even American corporations -- would have,” he said.
Groups supporting the amendment, including many large commodity groups, argue the ballot language should have been challenged before it was approved in last year’s election.
Missouri is the second state to add the right to farm to its constitution. Voters approved it by a narrow margin of about 2,400 votes in 2014. North Dakota was the first with several other Midwest states looking to follow suit.
The amendment stems from the Humane Society of the United States successfully championing new regulations for puppy mills in 2010. Farmers and ranchers were worried the society might come in again to push more animal regulation reform.
The Missouri Supreme Court’s decision is expected in the coming months.