Missouri to Vote on New 'Right to Farm'

Farmers seek protection from various laws

By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff

Posted Aug 3, 2014 4:00 PM CDT

(Newser) – Constitutional amendments typically enshrine rights like free speech and freedom of religion. Now Missouri is weighing a new one: "the right to farm," the New York Times reports. The state will vote Tuesday on Amendment 1, which says that the right "to engage in agricultural production and ranching practices shall not be infringed." So why are Big Agriculture and state farming groups leading the charge? Because the state regulated dog-breeding practices four years ago, and other states have passed laws that affect farmers, like banning GMO crops or ensuring bigger living conditions for animals.

"I personally don't know anybody that's against this," says a Missouri cattle rancher. Indeed, the state's GOP-controlled legislature firmly backs the proposal. But opponents—like the Humane Society, which led the dog-breeding fight—say the amendment would allow big industrial farms to avoid possible environmental and treatment-of-animal laws. The two sides have raised $1.5 million in all, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports, over a piece of writing that seems open to interpretation. "Really and truly, I don't think anybody knows" what will happen if it passes, says an attorney. "It could take quite a while to know what it's all going to mean." (Read about a "massive" farm bill passed after a three-year battle.)

Arlen Schwinke, a retired dairy farmer, pets one of his Holsteins while on a walk through his farm Monday, March 10, 2008, near Morrison, Mo.
Arlen Schwinke, a retired dairy farmer, pets one of his Holsteins while on a walk through his farm Monday, March 10, 2008, near Morrison, Mo.   (AP Photo/Whitney Curtis)
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