Friday, July 25, 2014

Missouri Right to Farm Information

On August 5th, Missouri residences will be voting on a variety of constitutional amendments, like Amendment 1 - Missouri Right to Farm. Have you heard of it?


If you're anything like me, government laws and regulations and changes aren't the easiest thing to understand. Amendments don't always seem to be written in everyday English, and if they are they tend to be short and sweet and leave lots to the imagination. Sure, everyone should do their own research before voting, but let's be honest, if the issue doesn't matter to you too much you probably won't do that research. Most of the time decisions on voting are made based on tv commercial ads seen between episodes of your favorite nighttime shows or opinions shared around the office water cooler. Am I right?

The other morning when a coworker asked me what I knew about Amendment 1, I had to (embarrassingly enough) say that while I felt confident that I would vote yes, I couldn't really explain it to him or give him the exact reasons why. Missouri Right to Farm is an amendment to protect Missouri farmers and their right to farm, exactly as it sounds. Protection from what? Protection from unneeded and unnecessary regulations and guidelines against current and future farming practices.

Let me tell you, not being able to properly defend my industry bothered me, and I spent hours yesterday researching this amendment and it's versions.

The wording on the final ballot reads as following:
Section 35. That agriculture which provides food, energy, health benefits, and security is the foundation and stabilizing force of Missouri's economy. To protect this vital sector of Missouri's economy, the right of farmers and ranchers to engage in farming and ranching practices shall be forever guaranteed in this state, subject to duly authorized powers, if any, conferred by article VI of the Constitution of Missouri.
I think it's true that this amendment is going to be fairly open interpretation, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. Farming practices are constantly changing. Farming technology is constantly changing. The anti-agriculture organizations that this amendment offers protection from will also constantly be changing their strategies, so agriculture will have to open to changing as well.

Gone are the days of the picture perfect family farm that consists of a milk cow, a fat hog, five chickens, and a rouge goat. This exact scenario exists somewhere I'm sure, but I can guarantee you it's not making enough of a profit to support a family. Family farms have to grow, work with a bigger corporation, or find a niche market with products that are in high demand to continue to exist in today's world. Technology on the farm is not a bad thing. It is a good thing. If people still had to cut hay by hand, I would most definitely not be a farmers wife, because I would be long dead from allergies... If you have a smartphone, a tablet, the internet, enjoy fruit out of season, sometimes like the convenience of pre-packaged meals or eating out at restaurants  - please do not try to use the argument that technology is bad and that we should all go back to farming like they did 100 years ago, unless you would prefer to eat only what can be grown on the land you own and nothing else...

The opposition would like people to believe that this vague wording opens up the door to large "anti-American" agriculture corporations to come in and push out the family farmer. Not so. This amendment doesn't negate any current laws or regulations. Local ordinances regulating placement of large confinement buildings, outside interests, corporation ownership, and other similar concerns will not be overruled. The amendment will not protect "bad farmers" who break laws. It will not remove authority of the local government or give a "free pass" to anyone.

For more Missouri Right to Farm info, check out these sources:

http://www.sos.mo.gov/elections/2014ballot/HJRNos117.pdf
The full ballot being voted on as found on the Missouri Secretary of State website.

http://ballotpedia.org/Missouri_Right-to-Farm,_Amendment_1_(August_2014)
This is a good site that gives facts to both side of the amendment, along with the actual amendment wording and lists of supporters and opposition.

http://mofarmerscare.com/farming-rights-amendment/
Missouri Farmers Care is the lead organization supporting Amendment 1, and has led many other pro-agricutlture movements in the past

http://brownfieldagnews.com/2014/07/24/right-to-farm-is-not-us-vs-them/
Brownfield Ag News is a very long standing reputable agriculture news source and this author makes good points about common myths of the amendment.

http://www.porkproud.com/2014/07/right-to-farm-part-2-is-constitutional.html
Jo, a fellow Missouri ag blogger has a couple of posts about the Right to Farm amendment as well, including some videos from the guys who helped draft the amendment.

http://m.maryvilledailyforum.com/business/agriculture/article_7e323236-05f1-11e4-adb5-0019bb2963f4.html?mode=jqm
This is a great article by a fellow Mizzou alum that shares why this amendment is a good thing for all farmers.

(I'll be the first to admit this is heavy on the vote yes side, with no real sites promoting the vote no side, but I wouldn't be supporting my industry if I encouraged you to read those misconceptions. If you would like those options just google it yourself...)

Also, if you happen to be interested in my opinion as a pig farmer's wife, a cattle farmer's daughter-in-law, a small diversified family farmer of the past's granddaughter... it is this:
Farmers need protection. Our lifestyle and way of living is in jeopardy from organizations like HSUS and PETA. These organizations lead their followers to believe that they are helping animals and promoting "good" agriculture, but their real priority is to demolish progressive and animal agriculture - and make a profit for themselves. Less than 1% of their profits go to actually help animals. Large agricultural corporations offer some protection to people like my husband and I who have contracts with them, but even those corporations aren't immune to the laws. Small independent farmers have almost no protection from ridiculous regulations and laws.
Big does not equal bad. Uncaring and bad people equal bad. Farmers who abuse and neglect their animals do not last long. Abused, neglected animals don't gain well, don't grow well, and don't become good products. If these animals even make it market, they are discounted for their poor condition. It is in the farmers best interest to keep their animals healthy and well cared for. On that same note, farmers deserve to make a profit. Farming is expensive. Science and technology has come a long way in helping farms be more efficient and productive with less input costs, but it is still expensive, niche farming even more so. However if farmers are not allowed to use these modern and technological advanced methods to reduce costs so that they can take home a profit, they can not support their families. 
Doctors are not regulated in the amount of patients they are able to treat in a year, as long as all are treated well. Lawyers aren't regulated in the amount of cases they can win, as long as all clients are happy. Manufactures aren't regulated in the amount of product they can produce, as long as the product is of quality. Why then should farmers be told they are not allowed to make a reasonable profit, not allowed to own more than a certain number of animals, as long as the land and the animals are managed responsibly? Farming is a business, whether a small family run business or a large cooperation with many branches. However it is also a family affair, and always will be, as love of the land and your livelihood runs deep. Farmers are capable of caring deeper and working harder than any other breed, and they deserve the respect that comes with it. 
Most of all, anyone who has questions or concerns about their food, it's sources, or any farming practices should talk with an actual farmer before making assumptions and believing extremist views. There are plenty of choices for all - organic, conventional, GMO-free, food only raised by purple aliens who listen to classical music (wait.....). However, farmers who bash other farmers because of their choices are not good sources of information. Of course no one should be allowed to beat their animals or pour chemicals into a river, however using technological advances or modern practices is not "bad" or "inhumane". If you have any questions about a particular farming practice or industry I would more than happy to connect you with a farmer in that field - just ask! 

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