Missouri passes ‘Right to Farm’ amendment
August 8, 2014
In Missouri, farming and ranching is now a right. A ballot initiative to guarantee the right to engage in farming and ranching practices passed with a .2 percent margin–just over 2,500 votes.
The passage of Amendment One may have come as a surprise to many in the state, considering Missouri's increasing urban population, a split ag vote and a lot of big money on both sides of the issue. "Amendment One's passing is remarkable for the mere fact that barely enough people are in production agriculture anymore and the fact that the divide and conquer tactic fell a tad short this time was really the big win. That I honestly did not expect," said Tammy Goldammer, a Missouri commercial cow-calf producer.
According to the Springfield News-Leader, Farmers Care, the pro-Amendment One group, spent $653,000 since July 1 on the issue, while Food for America, the opposition, has spent more than $413,000. Farmers Care was supported by the Missouri Farm Bureau, Missouri cattle, corn, hog, horse and family farming organizations. Food for America is "a broad coalition of family farmers, environmentalists, food safety advocates, animal welfare organizations and concerned citizens," according to their website.
The Farmers Care website says, "The Missouri Farming Rights Amendment will protect the hard working Missouri farm families who dedicate their lives to feeding our families; saving thousands of Missouri jobs and ensuring our families continue to have access to quality food at the grocery store."
The Food for American website lists lack of protection against foreign ownership, concerns over food safety, the environment, animal welfare, local control and puppy mills as reasons for their opposition.
The exact verbiage on the ballot read, "A "yes" vote will amend the Missouri Constitution to guarantee the rights of Missourians to engage in farming and ranching practices, subject to any power given to local government under Article VI of the Missouri Constitution.
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A "no" vote will not amend the Missouri Constitution regarding farming and ranching.
If passed, this measure will have no impact on taxes."
The Missouri Farmers Union was one production ag group opposed to Amendment One. "Objections Missouri Farmers Union raised against Amendment One were always that the amendment was too broad, too vague, and lacked any real definition of what it would do and for whom. We believe those are still valid concerns and that our opinion will be borne out once court interpretations begin to come down in favor of large concentrated corporate agriculture–some under foreign control–over coming months. Without clearer language in Amendment One, the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution virtually guarantees it," said Richard R. Oswald, president of MFU.
Missouri Farm Bureau president Blake Hurst said in a statement, "Our opponents failed to convince people that the thousands of Missouri family farms supporting this amendment were tools of foreign or corporate interests. Missourians have too much common sense for that. Missourians also understand that the only huge, outside contributor to this election was the Humane Society of the United States. In the final analysis, the biggest foreign corporation involved was against the amendment."
The narrow margin leaves the results open to a recount, which can be called for after the vote is certified in a few weeks.
"We will, of course, have to see how a recount holds up, but whatever the outcome, we as farmers will continue to work to be worthy of the trust placed in us by Missourians by caring for our land, our animals, and our neighbors," Hurst said.
Goldammer said she has mixed feelings about the amendment. "We should not have had to go this route of a constitutional amendment. But, the hope is to have some sort of legal language on hand to stop HSUS and PETA from additional legislative warfare in their efforts each year to impose livestock production limitations on farmers and ranchers. Missouri's demographics are increasingly becoming more urban and metro every year. Rural agriculture has been declining. The number of families with protein production animals is less and less each year. For me, to vote yes on Amendment One was to vote to keep HSUS from misleading folks again.
"We either let more squeezing occur to the occupation of farming and ranching or we try to hold it at bay for as long as possible."