Of the five ballot measures up for your consideration next Tuesday, the “Right to Farm” amendment has been the subject of the most talk – and the most confusion. Opponents, funded largely by out-of-state radical environmentalists and animals-deserve-human-rights-activists, have spent the last several months spreading lies about what it actually does and why it was placed on the ballot.
Let’s skip the rhetoric and look at the actual text of the amendment:
- That agriculture which provides food, energy, health benefits, and security is the foundation and stabilizing force of Missouri’s economy. To protect this vital sector of Missouri’s economy, the right of farmers and ranchers to engage in farming and ranching practices shall be forever guaranteed in this state, subject to duly authorized powers, if any, conferred by article VI of the Constitution of Missouri.
Last week, I wrote about the Gun Rights amendment, which specifies that laws infringing on Missouri’s version of the Second Amendment are subject to strict scrutiny. The reason: the right to self-defense and its protection through the Second Amendment are fundamental rights; therefore, any law impairing self-defense has to jump the highest hurdle to pass constitutional muster. The Right to Farm amendment is different and creates a right limited in two ways.
First, it expressly subjects farming and ranching to “duly authorized powers” of local governments in Article VI of the Missouri Constitution. This means that Missouri cities and counties may continue to regulate farming and ranching activities in the same way that they do today.
Second, the amendment does not create an impossible barrier for reasonable regulations of farming or ranching practices in state law. It clearly does not say that Missourians have the right to farm and ranch in any manner that they so choose. Instead, under this amendment, reasonable regulations will survive challenge so long as they do not effectively ban farming or ranching activity.
Why a “right to farm” amendment?
The radical animal rights movement has a clear agenda: the eventual eradication of animal agriculture. Their schemes are manifest in campaigns, over the past decade, to drastically curtail the ability of farmers and ranchers to, well – farm and ranch.
For example, in 2008, out-of-state interest groups placed a measure on the ballot to regulate Missouri dog-breeders. Though the regulations appeared sensible, they sneaked a few under the radar for the purpose of putting most breeders out of business. One provision outright banned any breeder with more than 50 dogs. This provision would have put most breeders out of business. It would have also subjected the state to an expensive lawsuit for an alleged regulatory taking. Because that provision had nothing to do with actual animal welfare, the legislature subsequently amended it. In California, voters passed a chicken initiative that, if imposed in Missouri, would put most chicken farmers out of business. (Attorney General Chris Koster, who also supports Amendment 1, has filed suit on behalf of Missouri farmers to invalidate this California law under a novel interpretation of the Dormant Commerce Clause).
The California chicken initiative dispels another lie advanced by opponents: that this is about big corporate farms. It’s well settled that 97 percent of Missouri farms are family-run operations. Also important, expensive new government regulations actually favor big corporations over small businesses because big business is better situated to absorb the added compliance costs.
In fact, the Right to Farm amendment was initially thought-up and proposed by former Rep. Tom Loehner from Osage County – who, beyond being one of my favorite House colleagues, was also renowned for his stubborn independence. “Big Country,” as he was called in the House, could never be accused of corporate shilling. Loehner explained the genesis of Right to Farm in a letter he sent out this week – which I’ve appended to this report.
Big Country and Missouri farmers stand on one side.
On the other stands HSUS, the group that pushed both the Missouri dog amendment and the California chicken initiative. HSUS subscribes to the three Rs – but they’re a little different than you might remember. According to these animal rights activists, their goals are to reduce meat consumption, refine diets through free-range foods, and replace meat in Americans’ diets with plant-based foods. This same group claims that meat, egg, and milk production waste natural resources because farm animals require grain crops to eat.
This same out-of-state group is spending vast sums of money to spread lies and distortions about the impact of the Right to Farm Amendment. With their Three Rs goal, it’s not difficult to imagine why they’re willing to spend so much money here: Amendment 1 would restrict their ability to make animal agriculture a thing of the past.
Which brings me to my final point: Constitutional amendments are designed to protect us not just today but in the generations to come. Missouri is a world leader in agriculture. We’re a top ten state for cattle, hog, and turkey production, and a top 15 state for chickens. As of 2012, we had the second most farms of any state. The “Right to Farm” amendment protects Missouri farmers and our most important industry from out-of-state radical animal-rights interests for today and future generations.
As your state representative, I voted to put the “Right to Farm” Amendment on the ballot, and I’ll be voting for it again next Tuesday.