Fighting for Our Rights
A ballot initiative in the November 4 statewide election may add the right to farm to the state constitution’s bill of rights.
“This is what I believe will be one of the most important votes that you will make in your lifetime, and will set an example for other states to do similar things,” said Mike Parson, state senator from the 28th district, of the upcoming vote.
The amendment is designed to be easy to understand, and Missouri’s fair ballot language will make the choice clearer to voters according to Travis Elliott, an agricultural law instructor at Missouri State University and shareholder in Ellis, Ellis, Hammons and Johnson law firm. The ballot will read, “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?”
The amendment went through the legislative initiative process last senate session and is now up to voters. Fair ballot language, Elliot said, keeps folks from being confused on what a yes or no means.
A yes vote will amend the constitution, while a no vote will make no change. The amendment would add language aimed at protecting agricultural practices to the constitution’s first article, which protects rights such as freedom of assembly and religion.
According to Missouri Farmers Care, the amendment aims to protect choices for consumers by protecting the food chain, protect Missouri farms from “out-of-state animal-rights extremists” and ensure that farmers who follow the law will have the right to continue their agricultural operations.
“There are those who want to take your way of farming away from you,” said Forrest Lucas, founder of Protect the Harvest and owner and CEO of Lucas Oil. “But now, the whole country is starting to stand up and pay attention because Protect the Harvest has gotten the information out there.”
Dan Kleinsorge, executive director of Missouri Farmers Care, said the amendment will create a lasting campaign structure for future legal battles. He also maintained that it will protect small and family farmers that don’t have the money to fight costly legal battles.
Legislation and regulation make farming more expensive and difficult, but the amendment does not keep the legislature or the Missouri Department of Agriculture form regulating agriculture.
“It creates a backdrop to stop statutes and regulations that go too far,” Elliott said.
The amendment is more broad and long-term than a statute with similar language would be, and the issues it addresses would be litigated in the courts, Elliott said.
Since the amendment initiative is not exorbitantly funded, Parson said, its success is dependent upon producers getting involved.
“We’re going to have to get involved and stand together,” Parson said.
“We’re organized early this time, but the only way we’ll get across the finish line is if we have your help,” Kleinsorge said.
Actual amendment language:
“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.”