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by Mike Ferguson
(Jefferson City, MO) – Both sides of the debate say they are trying to protect family farms in the state.
So, who actually is? That is for you to decide when you vote on Amendment One this Tuesday.
Officially, Amendment One, if passed by voters, “… 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.”
That’s the actual language from the Secretary of State that you’ll see on the ballot.
Missouri Farm Bureau President Blake Hurst, who is also a farmer, believes Amendment One is needed. He says farming across the country is under attack by animal rights groups and environmental activists.
“All across the nation, we see initiative petitions, we see legislation, we see regulations that control the ways farmers farm. No other industry is facing a challenge like this. No other industry.”
Former State Senator Wes Shoemyer, who is also a farmer, does not agree. He says Amendment One is not about local farms, it’s about protecting big business that happens to be in the agriculture industry.
“Basically, it’s going to give blanket immunity to the largest segment industry in the state.”
What both mean is that elevating farming and ranching to the status of constitutional right in the state will make it harder to regulate, regardless of efforts to further regulate come from the Legislature or via referendum. On Tuesday, voters must decide if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.
It will be harder, but not impossible, according to Hurst.
“I fully expect that agriculture will continue to be regulated much as it is now but this amendment says ‘let’s give some credit to the people who actually farm the land, let’s give some credit to the scientists at Missouri State and the University of Missouri who develop these technologies. Let’s give credit to the people in the industry who understand the challenges we face that deal with weed pressure, with insect pressure, with weather problems. Let’s give them some credit to make decisions that are both in the interest of farmers but also in the interest of the public as well.'”
The so-called “Right To Farm” amendment effort is, at least in part, a response to the voter approval of Proposition B in 2010. That was the referendum supporters promoted as a way to crack down on what they called unethical dog breeding.
Some in the agriculture industry worried that it could have been used to limit the freedoms of livestock farmers. What the voters approved was quickly changed after the election by state lawmakers and Governor Nixon. Shoemyer points out those changes were able to be made because Proposition B created a law. It was not declaring a state constitutional right.
He believes Amendment One takes away some protections.
“Raising this to a constitutional level is a whole different thing. When we look at Prop B and…the reason for having this, I think – if they’ll remember – the Governor and the Legislature modified that. Now, this is a constitutional amendment. The Legislature and the Governor cannot modify this to make sense.”
Both sides agree that if Amendment One passes, the courts will decide what it means in some cases because lawsuits are likely to result from the passage.
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