News from Missouri: MO legislature sends “right to farm” constitutional amendment to voters

What is now Constitutional Amendment 1 was first passed by Missouri lawmakers in 2013. It states in part that the right to engage in farming and ranching shall not be infringed upon and shall be “forever guaranteed.” Constitutional Amendment 1 is now set to go before voters Aug. 5, along with four other proposed constitutional amendments.  Four members of Missouri’s congressional delegation, all Republicans, are scheduled to begin stumping for the proposal around the state this week.

State Representative Bill Reiboldt, the initial sponsor of the amendment, said “We’re not in any way trying to stop the old traditional ways of farming or the new modern ways of farming.  We just are giving farmers the constitutional right to do what they do in a way that they feel like is the best for their particular operation.”  Reiboldt also says the amendment is needed to guard against over-regulation from the federal government and to protect farmers and ranchers from frivolous lawsuits. However, opponents argue that the proposal gives constitutional protection to animal abuse. A spokesperson for PETA claims “This proposed amendment is apparently the legislature’s attempt to constitutionalize a right to abuse animals on farms and destroy the environment. Animals used for food are castrated without pain relief, beaten with steel gate rods and shocked with electric prods. Cows have their horns burned from their skulls. Large-scale farms produce rivers of excrement, which contaminate groundwater, and are a leading cause of greenhouse-gas emissions. The public is demanding more accountability, not less.”

The official Joint Resolution submitting the question to Missouri voters is here.  While Missouri news outlets are labeling this as the “right to farm amendment” (see articles from Kansas City Public Media, Quincy Journal, and the Missouri Times) its language is much broader than the traditional right to farm laws that protect farmers from nuisance suits for engaging in traditional farming practices.  As this article points out, the language in this and other similar constitutional amendments being proposed in other states is so vague that the courts will likely play a major role in determining their legal reach.

A recent poll by the Missouri Liberty Project found that nearly 70 percent of voters supported the amendment.

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