Missourians will have a chance to decide if farmers should have a constitutional right to do what they’re doing. The legislature has sent them the so-called “Right to Farm” amendment.
The movement to create the amendment was triggered by the “Puppy Mill” petition campaign putting limits on pet breeders. Voters approved the puppy breeding law but the legislature immediately changed it, saying it needed to be more practical. Regulation of pet breeders is handled by the state agriculture department.
The original proposals would have prohibited petition efforts such as Proposition B creating agricultural laws, but that idea has been removed. St. Louis Senator Scott Sifton thinks that’s the most important change made in the three years of work on the bill.
“What’s most important to me is…that the power of the people to check the legislature on that subject matter and any other agriculture subject matter is not something I do not want to see taken away from them,” he says.
The proposal also retains the right of local governments to pass ordinances on zoning, health, and environmental issues., The original proposal would have eliminated that local government authority.
Early versions of the proposal also dealt with the abilities of local governments to pass ordinances and laws restricting farming. The legislature finally agreed on a compromise that says the amendment would not interfere with rights afforded local governments elsewhere in the Constitution.
Desloge Representative Linda Black says what is going to voters deals more directly with the right to farm.
“We had kind of gotten bogged down in the House on petition issues, trying to put protective language in that resolution … I think that the compromise that was struck leaves out any language for petitions but it does kind of soften the ability for local municipalities and counties to implement ordinances that enforce any kind of laws that have to do with livestock or agriculture.”
Black says the proposal will also extend protection to urban farming.
The Missouri Farm Bureau is one of the groups that has pushed for a right to farm amendment. President Blake Hurst says his group was comfortable with the language dealing with local control issues being removed, but they still want the state’s initiative petition process to be addressed.