Right to Farm should not include the Right to Harm
Several of you have asked about our opinion on Missouri Amendment 1, the “Right to Farm” amendment. We know it sounds like something we would be supporting, but it’s exactly the opposite. We are encouraging all of you to vote NO on Missouri Amendment 1.
At first glance, the wording of the amendment (and what will be on the ballot) sounds encouraging: “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?” This does not tell you the true content of the amendment. Voters are simply asked to vote “yes” or “no” on the above language, which sounds like a good thing.
However, let’s look at the actual amendment, which contains two Resolutions, nos. 11 and 7. Here is the verbatim wording from those Resolutions (I’ve bolded the passages that are most concerning to us):
Resolution 7: “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 modern farming and ranching practices shall be forever guaranteed in this state. No law shall be enacted which abridges the right of farmers and ranchers to employ agricultural technology and modern livestock production and ranching practices.“
Resolution 11: “That agriculture, which provides food, energy, and security, is the foundation and stabilizing force of Missouri’s economy. To protect this vital sector of Missouri’s economy, it shall be the right of persons to raise livestock in a humane manner without the state imposing an undue economic burden on animal owners. No law criminalizing the welfare of any livestock shall be valid unless based upon generally accepted scientific principles and enacted by the general assembly.”
There are no definitions provided in the language of these bills; “agricultural technology” usually means the biotech industry, including genetically modified plants and animals (they’ve already come up with spider goats… what’s next?). “Modern livestock production” generally includes confined operations, including chickens in warehouses, pigs in farrowing crates, cattle in feedlots.
This does NOT protect family farms. This does NOT protect sustainable farmers or those who believe in the welfare of their animals. This allows corporate and large farms to use all the GMOs, pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers they want without anyone being able to say anything against it. This allows CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations) to operate freely without the ability for anyone to argue against their practices or try to enact laws that restrict their harmful practices without getting a multitude of the scientific community to back them (And, if the state decided to have cats and dogs fall under the livestock category, puppy mills would be protected, too). This protects producers of GMO technology (i.e. Monsanto, Syngenta, etc.) and destroys the ability of sustainable and organic growers to protect themselves against what they call “agricultural technology.” This leads to air pollution, water pollution, and so much more.
This could allow the government to later mandate practices that are completely out of line with our growing ideals, like requiring the irradiation of our produce before we offer it for sale. It could prevent our ability to save seed or preserve livestock bloodlines. We would have no recourse against genetically altered crops that infiltrate our fields. It will further jeopardize the ability of small farms to compete in an open market and lead to more of them going bankrupt.
The rights of Missouri farmers are already, inherently, protected. It’s the corporations and big ag special interests that are taking that away from us. This, from the Joplin Globe:
Darvin Bentlage, a Barton County farmer, made a compelling case in this newspaper that what’s threatening small, independent family farms is big ag — corporate ag — which is what some critics think this amendment is designed to protect.
“I remember our right to farm when we didn’t have to sign a grower’s contract to buy seed, a document telling us what we could and couldn’t do with what we grew on our farm,” Bentlage argued. “I remember when family farmers could load their own feeder pigs in their truck and go to the local auction and sell their livestock in an open and competitive market. So who’s taken this right to farm away from us? It is the same corporate factory farm supporters, corporations and organizations that have pushed this constitutional amendment through the Missouri Legislature.”
The ballot question asks, “Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to ensure the right of Missouri citizens to engage in agricultural production and ranging practices shall not be infringed?”
Infringed by whom? What practices? And who qualifies as a farmer in Missouri?
Smithfield Foods, for example, owner of Premium Standard Farms? How about Tyson Foods? Both of those are Fortune 500 companies that count their revenue in the billions.
Which Tyson practice “shall not be infringed,” the one that left more than 100,000 dead fish in Clear Creek this spring?
It’s Missouri that may need protection from big ag.
We can’t state it any more plainly. Please, please, please, pass the word to your friends and neighbors. Vote NO on Missouri Amendment 1. The right to farm should not include the right to harm.
Karin and Arcenio Velez