Friday, July 11, 2014

'Right-to-farm' measures spread through Midwest

The right-to-farm movement is catching on in some Midwest states. The proposed laws or constitutional amendments are backed by powerful agriculture interests that "want to declare farming a right to fight back against animal-welfare activists and opponents of genetically modified crops." Measures have been approved in Indiana and North Dakota, and an amendment is up for vote in Missouri next month, Donnellee Eller reports for The Associated Press.

The Indiana measure, "which was written into state law but not enshrined in the constitution—protects the rights of farmers to use 'generally accepted' practices, including 'the use of ever-changing technology,'" Eller writes. In North Dakota, it "prohibits any law that 'abridges the right of farmers and ranchers to employ agricultural technology, modern livestock production and ranching practices.'" The Missouri measure, which goes to voters on Aug. 5, is a constitutional amendment that "asks voters whether the right 'to engage in farming and ranching practices shall be forever guaranteed.'” Similar measures passed both branches of the Oklahoma legislature before dying in a conference committee.

But in Iowa, politicians say they aren't hearing much support for it, and no one seems to expect any such measure to go before the legislature in the foreseeable future. Ron Birkenholz, a spokesman for the Iowa Pork Producers Association, told Eller, “We’re getting along just fine without an amendment. Iowa is an agricultural state, and we’ve been farming for centuries without problems.” One reason no one has pushed right-to-farm in Iowa is that the state's constitution is more difficult to change than those in other states, Eller writes. "Proposed amendments must win approval of the House and Senate in two consecutive general assemblies and then go to the voters statewide." (Read more)

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