by Mike Ferguson
(St. Charles, MO) – Supporters of the so-called “Right To Farm Amendment” to the Missouri Constitution spoke out last week on “Missouri Viewpoints” and, this week, their opponents get the spotlight.
If approved by voters later this year, the amendment would elevate legal protections for agriculture, especially animal agriculture, to the constitutional level, making some aspects of regulations harder to impose. Supporters say legal and legislative “attacks” on farming require the change.
Bob Baker from the Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation calls it a “fake problem” and a “fake solution”, saying the right to farm is so far entrenched in the state that a constitutional amendment is not needed.
Baker and MAAL have clashed with agriculture interests regularly. MAAL was among the supporters of 2010’s Proposition “B”, which animal rights groups say was designed to crack down on unethical dog breeders but agriculture groups say also impacted animal agriculture. Farming groups say the referendum language was written in a way that would have hurt beef, pork and poultry farming as well.
Baker disputes that claim. Proposition “B” narrowly passed on the ballot but was quickly thrown out by the Legislature and replaced with a compromise law that was hammered out by agriculture groups, animal welfare advocates, lawmakers on both sides and Governor Nixon.
“It’s just an atta-boy, a ‘good job, agriculture people’. It doesn’t really do anything. It just guarantees a right to farm and we already have that right to farm.”
Even though the proposed amendment would not change anything for farmers, in Baker’s view, he still wants the measure to be rejected.
“Our concern is that it will result in a lot of frivolous lawsuits against animal welfare laws. I doubt if they would prevail but it’s just going to cause a lot of headaches.”
He also doesn’t like the idea of singling out industries for additional protection in the state.
“There are other industries that are more important than even agriculture in the state. Are we going to have a constitutional amendment for the right to assemble airplanes? Are we going to have a constitutional amendment for the right to assemble cars, to manufacture cars in the state?
“It’s just silly. It really is nonsense.”
Supporters of the ballot issue say animal agriculture must be singled out for extra legal protection because animal rights groups are singling it out for extinction. Baker disputes that notion as well.
“I think that’s a boogey man that they created for fundraising. The fact is, under Missouri’s constitution, the Legislature can nullify that or repeal it and they did that on Proposition B on the puppy mill thing.
“So, in fact, if their fear is really true, that some boogey man is going to come in here and shut down farming by a ballot initiative, the Legislature can repeal it. They don’t need this protection.”
Voters will decide the fate of the proposed amendment in November. Both sides agree that passage of the plan will not end the legal wrangling over the issue, though.
Both Baker and Dan Kleinsorge from Missouri Farmers Care, which supports the proposal, have said on “Missouri Viewpoints” that the courts will likely have to decide what the measure means and what rights are covered by the amendment language.
On the web:
Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation: www.MAAL.org
Ballot Language Information: http://www.sos.mo.gov/elections/2014ballot/