Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Missouri voters consider 'right to farm' amendment

UPDATED, Aug. 6: The amendment appears to have narrowly passed, reports The Associated Press. The amendment had 498,751 votes for it and 496,223 against it with all precincts reporting — a margin of less than three-tenths of a percentage point. (Read more)

Missouri voters are voting today on a controversial—and often confusing—amendment to the state constitution that some say protects the rights of farmers but that others say gives corporations more power.

It's not clear how the right-to-farm amendment will impact local and state laws, Julie Bosman reports for The New York Times. Erin Morrow Hawley, an associate law professor at the University of Missouri who specializes in agricultural issues, told Bosman, “There is a lot of uncertainty with respect to how the amendment would actually work in practice. You could see a state law challenged based on this constitutional amendment. But the biggest aim is to prevent new state laws coming in from outside the state. The idea is to create another legal tool to stop that.”

Supporters say "it would end what they see as meddling by outsiders in its business practices," Bosman writes. "Opponents have protested that the amendment would be a boon for large industrial farms that would like to avoid potential laws controlling their treatment of animals or the environment, allowing them to pollute the land, extend the use of genetically modified crops and freely experiment with the use of antibiotics in livestock, a trend that has concerned scientists."

There is strong opposition to the Missouri Farm Bureau-favored amendment, reports The Missouri Times. Opponents include The Missouri Farmers Union, the Humane Society of Missouri, the Missouri Rural Crisis Center, the League of Women Voters of Missouri, the Missouri Coalition for the Environment, The Humane Society of the United States, the ASPCA, Missouri Libertarian Party and the Locke and Smith Foundation.

Many state newspapers have also come out against the amendment, with 15 newspapers, including the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Kansas City Star publishing editorials urging residents to vote against the amendment, The Missouri Times writes. The Post-Dispatch wrote: "Something smells in hog country … Giving massive out-of-state corporations extra protection in the state constitution doesn’t help a thing. VOTE NO.” The Star wrote: “The courts would have the final say on what this vaguely worded amendment actually means. Voters can avoid costly and lengthy legal challenges by rejecting it.”

The amendment, which was sponsored by a Republican legislator and has wide support in the Republican-controlled legislature, has plenty of supporters, Bosman writes. "A coalition of state farming groups and major agriculture corporations have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to take aim at the Humane Society, which led a successful fight in 2010 to regulate inhumane dog-breeding practices in Missouri. Backers of the amendment are wary of laws that have passed in other states, like California, where voters in 2008 approved roomier living conditions for hens, and Oregon, where a rural county’s ban on genetically modified crops was overwhelmingly passed in May."

"Since the beginning of July, advocacy groups have spent more than $1 million on the fight over Amendment 1: Missouri Farmers Care, an umbrella group of supporters, has spent more than $650,000," Bosman writes. "The Missouri Cattlemen’s Association sent an email to members on Thursday urging them to call friends, post on Facebook and Twitter in support of the amendment, and get to the polls on Tuesday." Agricultural groups representing cattle, soybean and corn farmers have also lined up in favor of the amendment. (Read more)

No comments: