Missouri Farmer Hopes Constitutional Change Will Protect Family Farms From Animal Rights Groups
By Amanda Brodhagen, Farms.com
Farmers in the sate of Missouri have said enough is enough.They are tired of out-of-state ‘bullies’ namely, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), and other anti-agriculture groups from coming into their state, and try to change laws about the way livestock are raised or how crops are grown.
Out of sincere frustration, Amendment 1, also known as the: ‘Right to Farm’ proposal was conceived. The measure written by farmers-for-farmers, would give Missouri farmers and ranchers rights under the state’s constitution.
The ‘Right to Farm,’ is one of five ballot measures up for consideration in Missouri’s local primary election, which is set to take place on Tuesday, August 5. And it’s controversial.
The proposal reads as follows:
"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?"
Missouri voters will be asked to vote yes or no to the amendment.
Adam Casner, a seventh generation row-crop (corn and soybean) farmer from Carrollton, Missouri, says Amendment 1 would “keep family farms intact.”
He strongly believes that a constitutional change is needed in order protect family farms from animal rights groups who campaign against modern agricultural practices.
“It’s going to give us some help with these out-of-state interest groups, that like to push us around and tell us what to do,” Casner said in an interview with Farms.com.
And these groups, in particular HSUS, have stated that one of their goals is to end animal agriculture, and thus convert the masses to choose a vegetarian or vegan plant-based diet.
Casner says groups like HSUS aim to “make things harder for us [farmers] and raise our cost of production,” adding that such efforts ultimately raise the cost of food for consumers.
These proposed legislative changes are funded by animal rights groups who lobby to impose farming practices that are often unrealistic. And when their lobbying efforts are successful, the ramifications have the ability to put family farms (of all types and sizes), out of business.
One thing that upsets Casner, is when the opposition use terms like “factory farms and “foreign ownership,” scare tactics to campaign for the ‘no’ side of the proposal.
“When they [the public] hear those words they are going to have bad thoughts about agriculture,” he said. “It triggers bad images in peoples minds.”
In 2008, these same out-of-state interest groups placed a measure on the ballot to regulate Missouri dog-breeders. But through the course of events, the state legislature amended the law because the provision was found to have limited benefits to animal welfare.
“We don’t have the capitol to fight them every time they come into our state,” he said.
At the heart of the ‘Right to Farm’ measure: Amendment 1 would offer Missouri farmers and ranchers more protection from future extreme laws that could impede their ability to farm.
In 2008 California voted ‘yes’ to proposition 2, which will soon require alternate methods for housing for certain livestock: pregnant pigs, calves raised for veal, and egg-laying hens. The law increases the cost of production for farmers, and some have already decided to leave the farming profession due to the harsh regulatory conditions. The statuette will come into affect on January 1, 2015.
Missouri is one of the leading states (number of farms, crop and livestock production) in the nation. The vast majority, 97 per cent of farms, in the state are family owned and operated.
The Missouri Department of Agriculture says on its website that it is home to more than 100,00 farms, located on approximately 28 million acres of farmland.
According to the Missouri Economic Research and Information Centre, the state’s agricultural sectors directly contributed more than $12.4 billion or seven per cent of the state’s gross domestic product, to the local economy in 2008.
When asked if he thinks the measure will pass, “I have a feeling that we are going to pass this,” he speculates. “But it’s going to be close.”
Regardless of the outcome, Casner admits that there is a lot of work to be done to bridge the gap between rural and urban communities. “We need to better communicate the reasons why we do things,” he said.
After all, less than 1 per cent of Americans claim farming as an occupation, while about 2 per cent of people actually live on farms. “We have a lot of work to do amend our relationship with urban society,” he explained.
The outcome of Missouri’s vote could determine what happens next with the ‘Right to Farm’ movement. If successful, other states may consider adopting similar amendments.
Campaign messaging (claim vs. fact):
CLAIM: ‘Right to Farm’ would hurt family farms
FACT: The sponsors of the ‘Right to Farm’ measure are family farmers. About 15 farm organizations (member organizations made up of farmers) helped draft the amendment. The proposal was created to help farmers deal with the growing threat of out-of-state animal rights groups like HSUS who lobby for regulations that burden family farmers.
CLAIM: Monsanto developed Amendment 1 in order to override regulations
FACT: Farmers drafted the ‘Right to Farm’ amendment not Monsanto. Interestingly, Monsanto has chosen to stay neutral on Amendment 1 and has not participated in lobbying or campaign efforts.
CLAIM: The ‘Right to Farm’ would make way for more foreign ownership of Missouri farmland
FACT: Missouri has an existing law in place that limits foreign ownership of farmland in the state to 1 per cent. Amendment 1 would not change or repeal that law.