House and Senate lawmakers have met to debate what language should go in Missouri’s Constitution to guarantee a right to farm, but some say the issue is not likely to pass this session.
The Senate version of the proposal includes language to protect the power of political subdivisions to regulate farming, such as through a county health ordinance. The conference committee voted to omit that.
Rep. Jason Smith (R-Salem) says that language would create two constitutional rights.
“The right to farm and also the right of political subdivisions to conflict with the Constitution,” he says, “and I think that’s a big problem.”
Rep. Linda Black (D-Desloge) says leaving that language in would create a greater threat to farming.
“Then they could do a more narrowly defined effort on a local level, because if you have a drive in each county to put something on a local ballot you could actually kill the right to farm on an individual county-by-county basis … and we see that there may be an effort out there to do that.”
Sen. Jolie Justus (D-Kansas City) says without that language in there, several members of her caucus have said they will vote to kill the bill. She and Black agree the issue is likely dead for the session.
Justus says the real way to prevent future challenges to farming is to change the initiative petition process, something she hopes can be accomplished next year.
“We need to strike a balance between citizens being able to petition their government and also realizing that right now the system is set up so that wealthy individuals and organizations can put things on the ballot very easily in this state,” Justus says. “It’s an end run around the legislature and I don’t think it’s what direct democracy should be about.”
The proposals are HJRs 11 and 7.