Missouri found itself in the crosshairs of outside interest groups attempting to control different aspects of production agriculture last month, but voters in that state narrowly passed an amendment to counter the attacks and protect farmers’ rights in technology choices.
The amendment, which asked, “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?” was approved by a narrow 2,500 votes.
Missouri State Sen. Michael Parson says from the individual raising a few calves or laying hens, to a row crop farm consisting of thousands of acres, the rights and protections afforded by Amendment 1 will ensure Missouri’s farmers are able to “continue their operations free from unreasonable intrusion from outside interests.”
Blake Hurst, president of the Missouri Farm Bureau Federation, explains that the amendment protects all practices farmers use ranging from early weaning of dairy cattle, neutering and castration and the planting of genetically modified crops.
In 2010, Missouri voters approved Proposition B, which further regulated dog breeders. Hurst says that some of the provisions in Prop B make sense, such as dogs having access to clean water 24 hours a day. However, a restriction which says that no breeding business could have more than 50 female dogs isn’t based on science, since there is no animal care or ecological reason for the 50-dog threshold.
Hurst states that type of provision would be more difficult to pass now that Amendment 1 is on the books. The amendment should prevent the legislature or a ballot initiative from setting standards for things such as cow herd size or what type of crop to plant, which in turn hurts a farmer's ability to be competitive.
Some criticized the amendment, saying it hurt small farmers. Parson, who was involved in the drafting of the language, says he approached the task from the perspective of being a small farmer himself.
“As I looked around at those helping with the language, I saw other small farmers and representatives of farmers and ranchers who just want to earn a living for their families," he says. "What I did not see were people advocating for foreign ownership of farm land, representatives of large corporations, or people pushing for loss of local control. This legislation was drafted by farmer/legislators for farmers and ranchers."
North Dakota passed a similar law in 2010. Hurst says since passage there North Dakota hasn’t seen any lawsuits and has provided a strengthened defense against out-of-state interests in dictating production limitations.
“We’re expecting the same here,” Hurst says.