The purpose of Amendment #1 is to ensure the long-term future of agriculture in our state and is similar in scope and protection to our current constitutional freedoms of speech, religion, and the right to keep and bear arms, rights that are already guaranteed by the Missouri Constitution and the United States’ Constitution. It is important to note that with any constitutional privilege comes reasonable regulations and responsibilities. For example, the freedom of speech does not allow a person to shout “Fire” in a crowded area or to slander someone. The right to keep and bear arms does not allow a person the right to open fire on innocent citizens. So it is with the Farming Rights Amendment. It will not protect the lawbreakers or those who engage in proven harmful agriculture practices.
Our state is now the number one target of outside groups attempting to control all aspects of agriculture production. Opponents to Amendment #1 are using deceptive means and blatant lies in an attempt to confuse and scare voters, hoping to derail the amendment. Several myths that are being put forth are as follows:
Myth #1 - “It is all about corporate farming.” In reality it is about all farming. Missouri ranks second in the nation in the total number of farms, ninety-seven percent of which are owned by families and are traditional family farms. Today, the traditional family farm has become larger as more family members return to the farm and that way of life. To be able to make a living and provide for their families, these family operations, of necessity, have had to expand, much the same way small stores and companies have grown in size in order to be more competitive in today’s business environment. With larger family farms, modern business practices have become necessary, such as forming C-Corps or Sub Chapter S corporations. Amendment #1 will protect all farmers equally, and family farms will especially benefit from this protection because they do not have the resources to fight well-funded anti-agriculture groups that could use the initiative petition process to further their agenda and disrupt our state’s agriculture industry.
Myth #2 - “It will allow foreign countries and investors to buy up Missouri farmland and do whatever they want in agriculture.” Not true. Missouri has other legislation already in place that prohibits foreign investors from gobbling up our farmland. Last year’s override of the governor’s veto resulted in Senate Bill 9 becoming law and capping allowable foreign ownership of Missouri farmland at one percent. The Missouri Farming Rights Amendment will not change or have any effect on existing laws. The well-publicized Smithfield sale of just over 42,000 acres of Missouri farmland to the Chinese was allowed as a result of the direct approval of the Obama Administration, not Missouri officials. The federal government gave the okay to the Virginia-based Smithfield company, and the U. S. Constitution’s interstate commerce clause gave them the power to regulate the sale, but Amendment #1 is not about foreign ownership of Missouri farmland.
Myth #3 - “Missouri farmers will be given a blank check to do whatever they want.” Again, not so. Even as it is now, every right is subject to reasonable restrictions. State and federal regulations are in place and will not be in any way superseded by the Farming Rights Amendment. No one in production agriculture has a blank check to do whatever he or she pleases.
Myth #4 - “Local control will be lost.” The language of this amendment specifically leaves the powers of local government in place under Article 6 of the Missouri Constitution. Amendment #1 creates constitutional protection for farmers and will work side-by-side with local jurisdictions to protect their rights.
As our state’s largest industry and the lifeblood of rural Missouri, agriculture is a major employer of not only the rural but also of many urban Missourians by creating thousands of well-paying jobs for them. Supporting the Farming Rights Amendment will provide protection for these jobs and production agriculture in general. It will also serve to keep some extremist, anti-agriculture groups from disrupting our economy and will help offer additional ag-related protections going into the future. Your support of Amendment #1 on August 5 is crucial.