Sunday, August 3, 2014

Farmers Overreact to HSUS. Again

Missourians already have the constitutional right to religion, speech and guns. On Tuesday, they could make a novel addition to the State Constitution: the right to farm.
A proposal known as Amendment 1 will be taken up in a statewide vote on Tuesday, leaving Missouri poised to change its Constitution to guarantee the rights of its people to “engage in farming and ranching practices.”
The right to farm hardly seems threatened in Missouri, one of the leading agricultural states, with nearly 100,000 farms producing crops including soybeans, corn and wheat.
But 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.
While the amendment would not affect federal laws governing agriculture, its possible effect on local and state laws is unclear.
“There is a lot of uncertainty with respect to how the amendment would actually work in practice,” said Erin Morrow Hawley, an associate law professor at the University of Missouri who specializes in agricultural issues. “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.”
The debate over the proposed amendment has roiled Missouri for more than a year, with supporters saying it would end what they see as meddling by outsiders in its business practices.
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.
Farmer privilege is going to undermine the standing of agriculture with the general public.  Farmers are already exempt from most regulation, but getting overly aggressive, especially toward HSUS has tended to backfire on farmers.  The more modern husbandry practices get publicity, the less support they have in the general public.  Expect HSUS to be in a better negotiating position after this vote than before it.  However, if this passes, expect constitutional amendments on the ballot in other Midwestern states.

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