With approximately 108,000 farms across our state and production and sales at over $16 billion annually, agriculture is Missouri’s number one industry. We rank second in the nation with number of farms and have over 300,000 employees working in some form of agribusiness. In fact, Missouri’s entire economy in some way can be tied to agriculture.
Over the years agriculture’s industry has changed and fewer people are directly connected to farms and ranches through family or as a fulltime occupation. Consequently, this has made our ag industry vulnerable to attacks from well-funded out-of-state groups. These groups oftentimes misinform the public and attempt to get unnecessary regulations placed on Missouri’s farmers and ranchers.
After Proposition B narrowly passed in 2010, leaders in our state’s agriculture community saw the need to become organized against these outside forces. One such group, Missouri Farmers Care, was successful in bringing together 38 different ag-related organizations that represent almost all segments of agriculture across Missouri. It was this organized effort, with the working together of legislators in both the Missouri House and Senate that resulted in placing the Right to Farm referendum on the Nov. 2014 ballot. This referendum will give Missouri voters a chance to pass a constitutional amendment that will help protect our state’s agribusiness industry and Missouri’s economy. The Right to Farm amendment, if passed, will guarantee individuals the right to farm or ranch in Missouri. This will be similar in scope to the basic individual right to bear arms as guaranteed in our state constitution.
The Right to Farm referendum will appear on the November ballot as follows:
“Shall Missouri’s constitution be amended to ensure that the right of Missouri citizens to engage in agricultural production and ranching practices shall not be infringed?”
If voters give their approval to the Right to Farm referendum in November, Missouri’s constitution will be amended to read as follows:
“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 6 of the constitution of Missouri.”
More than any ag-related effort or issue Right to Farm has brought together the Missouri agricultural community. This unity of purpose and urgency is critical to ensure the long-term future that is necessary for agriculture to continue to grow and thrive in Missouri. The most often-asked question concerning the Right to Farm amendment is why such an amendment is needed. Animal rights activists and their organizations have made it necessary for Missouri farmers and ranchers to take action to protect their livelihood and our state’s food production. It is imperative for consumers to understand that the vast, vast majority of farmers are conscientious in the raising of their crops and the caring for their livestock.
It is important to note that the Right to Farm amendment will not interfere with a county or a city government’s current ability to regulate agricultural activities. The language of the Right to Farm amendment specifically leaves the powers of local government in place, under Article 6 of Missouri’s constitution. The language of the amendment is purposely broad in nature. Nevertheless, like other constitutional protections, its meaning may be more specifically defined by court rulings and state law. The amendment’s wording guarantees “the right of farmers and ranchers to engage in farming and ranching practices” and protects any activity undertaken by farmers and ranchers to raise crops or livestock. However, those who violate laws and regulations will still be subject to law enforcement action. “Bad apples” will not be protected.