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Right To Farm Amendment Challenged In Missouri Supreme Court

Missouri is the second state to add the right to farm to its constitution, behind North Dakota.

Farmer Jeff Jones and his daughters feed grain to their foraging cattle once a day in Callaway County, Mo.

Critics of the so-called Right to Farm amendment to Missouri’s state Constitution brought their case to the state Supreme Court Wednesday.

The amendment is meant to protect Missouri farmers from new laws that would change current farm practices.

Critics of the amendment, including many small farmers and animal rights groups, say the wording of the statute opens the door for foreign corporations to exploit Missouri farmland. The ballot language voters saw in November 2014 specified protection for “Missouri citizens.” But the actual amendment language does not.

Wes Shoemyer of Missouri Food for America contends this ambiguity not only confused voters, but it leaves the door open for foreign corporations to exploit Missouri farm laws.

“They certainly won’t have the same interest for our rural communities and rural schools and for our workers that family farmers especially, even our American corporations, would have,” he said.

Groups supporting the amendment, including many large farm commodity groups, argue the ballot language should have been challenged before it was approved in last year’s election.

Missouri is the second state to add the right to farm to its constitution, behind North Dakota. Voters approved it by a narrow margin of about 2,400 votes in 2014. Several other Midwest states have drafted similar legislation in the past.

The amendment stems from the Humane Society of the United States successfully championing new regulations for “puppy mills” in 2010. Farmers and ranchers were worried animal rights groups might push for more changes in animal regulations.

The Missouri Supreme Court’s decision is expected in the coming months.

Harvest Public Media

Harvest Public Media is a reporting collaboration focused on issues of food, fuel and field. Based at KCUR in Kansas City, Harvest covers these agriculture-related topics through an expanding network of reporters and partner stations throughout the Midwest.

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