Constitutional Amendment No. 1 on the Aug. 5 ballot is focused on the agriculture industry, a cornerstone of the Missouri economy.
It has been called the “right to farm” amendment, because it would inscribe the importance of agriculture in the Missouri state Constitution.
Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to ensure that the right of Missouri citizens to engage in agricultural production and ranching practices shall not be infringed?
The potential costs or savings to governmental entities are unknown, but likely limited unless the resolution leads to increased litigation costs and/or the loss of federal funding.
What it means:
The “right to farm” amendment is controversial, mostly thanks to its opaque language. It’s not clear what, exactly, this provision protects and what it would change.
The phrase “agricultural production and ranching” is vague and encompasses a wide range of functions, leading many to assume that specific definitions related to the proposed amendment will have to be hashed out in the court system.
Animal welfare and environmental groups, and some small farmers, worry the measure would make it more difficult to take farmers to task that engage in practices that harm animals or the environment. Many of the large commodity groups that represent farmers and agricultural companies view the amendment as further protection from unnecessary nuisance lawsuits and regulations that impede their ability to make a living on the farm.
The measure essentially attempts to protect farmers and ranchers from any new laws that would change or outlaw practices they currently use.
“(These) practices that are proven, that are safe, that are good for consumers, good for farmers and good for the environment,” said Blake Hurst, president of the Missouri Farm Bureau, which has spent heavily on advertising supporting the amendment.
Hurst says he wants to stay one step ahead of the groups that use regulation to change the way farmers do business. Some Midwest farmers say recently they feel under attack from animal welfare groups and environmental organizations. They’re worried about their livelihood.
“So this amendment is a way for us to push back a little bit,” Hurst said.
If the amendment passes, farms would still have to abide by existing laws and environmental regulations. But, critics say a “right to farm” provision would make Missouri friendlier to large farm companies with deep pockets.
Joe Maxwell, former lieutenant governor of Missouri and head of a group opposing the amendment, says the law could result in more power for big farmers and companies, and allow them to fund changes in local laws.
“Those out here in the country, we’re just going to get screwed if this passes,” Maxwell said. “If this passes, those safeguards will be under attack by those who want to build large CAFOs in rural Missouri.”
What it means for Kansas City:
While exact ramifications of approving the amendment are hard to pin down, it would likely give more power and protection to farming and ranching interests all over the state of Missouri.