Right to Farm is a Right to Pollute

Wednesday, July 30, 2014


Next Tuesday (Aug. 5), Missourians will decide if their state constitution should be amended to enshrine a so-called “Right-to-Farm” provision. The vaguely worded and open-ended amendment states, “the right of farmers and ranchers to engage in farming and ranching practices shall be forever guaranteed in this state.”

Really? Exactly which farming and ranching practices shall be forever guaranteed? Hog manure from factory farms running off of crop fields? Planting crops and applying farm chemicals right next to or sometimes right in Missouri’s streams and rivers? 

The amendment as written would shield industrial-scale “farms” from even the most common-sense standards established by the state to protect Missouri’s environment, although you wouldn’t know that given the innocuous and misleading language that voters will actually see on the ballot.

Not surprisingly, the amendment is being pushed by the heaviest of heavy hitters on the industrial agriculture team – Missouri’s Farm Bureau, the Corn Growers Association, the Cattlemen’s Association, and the Pork Association, to name just a few.

But the push for the amendment has managed to split the farm community. It has drawn opposition from the Missouri’s Farmers Union, the Coalition for the Environment, the Humane Society, the Sierra Club, the Rural Crisis Center and the editorial boards of leading Missouri newspapers.

The Missouri amendment reflects a growing attitude among too many farmers across the country that their neighbors, fellow citizens – and even their customers – should have nothing to say about how they farm, even when poor farming practices threatens public health and pollutes the water. And even when their neighbors and fellow citizens fork out subsidies and income guarantees that would make most independent small business people blush.

Farming has profound effects on the environment, public health and the fate of local communities. That makes farming everybody’s business.


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