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Douglas County Opinions – Baker Creek Seed Co. Con Amendment 1 “Right to Farm”

Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company adamantly opposes Amendment 1, the “Right to Farm” amendment on the August ballot.

 

Missouri voters will go to the polls on August 5 to cast their ballots for or against what has become known as the “Right to Farm” act. Unlike a typical bill passed by the state legislature, HJR11 is a legislative referendum to be voted on by the people. A majority of votes in favor of the resolution would add it as an amendment to the Constitution of Missouri. Passage of this referendum would make Missouri only the second state to add such “Right to Farm” legislation in its constitution. North Dakota added a similar amendment to its state constitution in 2012. Missourians already have the right to farm and no constitutional amendment is needed to ensure that right.

 

The wording on the ballot states, “Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to ensure that the right of Missouri citizens to engage in agriculture production and ranching practices shall not be infringed?” Now read the amendment itself. Nowhere does it use the term “Missouri citizens.”

 

The state’s constitution would be amended to read as Section 35: “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 VI of the Constitution of Missouri.”

 

Supporters of the legislation include big agricultural corporations of Monsanto, Cargill, Tyson, and Syngenta, as well as the regional organizations of MFA and Missouri Farm Bureau. They surely support the law in efforts to maximize the sale of their goods and services, but we argue this is not in the best interest of all Missouri farmers, and indeed, of all Missourians.

 

Opponents of the legislation point out that the amendment’s true purpose is to protect concentrated animal feeding operations, such as Smithfield Farms’ massive hog-breeding operation in northern Missouri that began as Premium Standard Farms and is now owned by a Chinese conglomerate. These massive operations want to be free of any future legislation that might restrict them from practices that may be destructive to the environment, such as massive contamination of rivers, streams and even drinking water.

 

Former Missouri Lt. Governor Joe Maxwell is an outspoken opponent of the amendment and contends this initiative isn’t about protecting Missouri’s family farmers but is about protecting large agricultural interests. He points out that Chinese-owned Smithfield now owns 50,000 acres of Missouri farmland, and wants to expand CAFOs across Missouri so they can export pork to China. He further says, “they’ve joined together with other multinational corporations, such as Monsanto, who want to insure that those of us that want to be non-GMO farmers won’t be able to have basic safeguards to protect our seed from their genetically modified organisms.”

 

Catharine Hanaway, Republican candidate for governor is campaigning for the amendment as being good for the state’s economy. She points out that Missouri is the only state with two navigable rivers to carry products to major ports for international transport and would create vast opportunities for jobs through agriculture. Opponents point out that Missouri waterways could become quickly contaminated if large hog-farming operations are allowed to set up shop free of regulations.

 

Monroe County farmer and former state legislator Wes Shoemeyer leads opposition on another point with his concern being for sustainable agriculture. His issue is with the contamination of a non-GMO farmer’s crops by those of a GMO farmer close by. With a constitutional amendment in place, a non-GMO farmer would have no recourse for his losses due to GMO contamination by a neighboring farmer.   Then there is third-generation farmer Ben Duffield of Tuscumbia, whose native wildflower seed farm repeatedly receives herbicide and pesticide drift from the neighboring farm. Will he have any recourse of protection under the amendment, or will his family farm be put out of business?

 

We oppose Amendment 1 because

 

*Our Constitution is for us and not for foreign corporations!

 

*Industrial agriculture should not be exempt from environmental and public heath regulations!

 

*The primary beneficiary of the amendment will be large, corporately controlled, industrial operations!

 

*It would preclude future regulations that may be deemed necessary to protect public health!

 

*It strips Missourians of their rights and weakens laws against foreign-owned factory farms!

 

*It forbids any state rules to regulate agriculture!

 

*Local governments will lose the ability to stop agricultural corporations from contaminating our state!

 

*It gives Missouri’s control of its own land and agricultural policy to foreign corporations!

 

*It is vaguely worded and open to interpretation at taxpayer expense!

 

*It will result in costly litigation over what farming practices are allowed or not!

 

The “vote Yes” signs advocate “Keep Missouri Farming.” Who do we want to keep farming in Missouri? The big foreign conglomerates or the family farmers who have been farming in Missouri for generations? We oppose a change in the Missouri constitution that says it is to protect the farmer, but does not define who the farmer is. When it gets to the courts, will the family farmer who has been farming for generations be protected, or will the new foreign conglomerate farmer be protected? The ballot language is vague and open to interpretations enough to be deceptive. We urge everyone to vote NO on amendment 1 on August 5.

 

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