Corporate Farming: “Right to Farm” Amendment a Misnomer

On August 5, Missourians voted on an ill-conceived, so-called “Right to Farm” constitutional amendment. A coalition of major agricultural corporations and commodity group allies spent over $1 million to secure its passage.

One might judge Amendment 1 by the company it keeps, but there are other concerns. The amendment was couched in farmer-friendly phrasing and language with unclear legal ramifications: 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.

Despite all the family farm and ranch rhetoric from proponents, one intended consequence is clear. It will protect their preferred brand of corporate agriculture over family farms and ranches. The coalition that arose in opposition to Amendment 1 was outspent, but not outfought. By a razor thin margin – approximately 2,500 votes out of nearly 1 million cast – the amendment passed.

The passage of Amendment 1 is a cautionary tale. Previously an assault on state anti-corporate farming laws spread from state to state. It culminated in the loss of Nebraska’s Initiative 300 and South Dakota’s Amendment E, the nation’s strongest protections of family farming and ranching against the onslaught of corporate farming. Passage of Amendment 1 is likely to lead to corporate farming assaults on the laws and constitutions of other states.

Those who stood in the breech defending Missouri’s family farms, ranches, and small towns will face stern challenges in their future efforts. We should honor them and help them when we can. And we must learn by their example, in preparation for the day when the “rights of corporations to farm” crowd comes to our states.

Image credit: Governing the States and Localities, FlickrCC/KOMUNews