Is a “Right to Farm” constitutional amendment needed in Missouri? In seven weeks, Missouri voters will be asked to decide this question on the Aug. 5 ballot. As a third generation farmer and the bill’s sponsor, I believe this constitutional guarantee is very important for the future of our state’s number one industry. It is a shame that such an amendment would even be necessary in our nation, but the threat from outside groups is very real and it is time to take a stand to protect our future food production.

Is a “Right to Farm” constitutional amendment needed in Missouri? In seven weeks, Missouri voters will be asked to decide this question on the Aug. 5 ballot. As a third generation farmer and the bill’s sponsor, I believe this constitutional guarantee is very important for the future of our state’s number one industry. It is a shame that such an amendment would even be necessary in our nation, but the threat from outside groups is very real and it is time to take a stand to protect our future food production.

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and the Sierra Club are determined to regulate the animal agriculture industry out of business. It appears that these animal rights and environmental activists have as their goal to eliminate all animal agriculture. The farming rights amendment simply gives food producers a legal standing to challenge unfair regulations. Perhaps Brent Haden, a Columbia-based agriculture attorney, said it best when he stated that “every constitutional right is subject to regulation. The right to farm would be no different. The freedom of speech and the right to bear arms are both constitutional rights that are subject to reasonable regulations.” Haden continued, “It’s not that there can’t be reasonable regulations of agriculture, but what this amendment is trying to prevent is unreasonable regulations or outright prohibition.”

The main thrust of the farming rights amendment is to prevent the unreasonable, disruptive regulations aimed at shutting down or seriously crippling the agriculture industry in our state and, ultimately, our nation. Furthermore, it is important to note that any federal regulation will clearly supersede a state’s law. Federal laws and regulations will always trump a state law. This is true in every instance.

As fewer people are now directly connected to the farm — 2 percent of the population who actually produce our food — it becomes easier for well-funded out-of-state groups to give people misinformation, preying on their ignorance and trying to outlaw many research-based, technologically advanced, and ethical  agriculture practices. Some of the misinformation that is being voiced in regard to this farming rights amendment really has nothing to do with the amendment and is basically a scare tactic meant to deliberately mislead voters. The opponents of the proposed amendment are saying local control will be lost if the amendment passes. However, that is not the case. There was much work done to deliberately make sure that local controls remain in place. The amendment will not invalidate county ordinances, because counties derive their authority from the state constitution and existing state laws. In formulating the amendment, we were very careful to put in “subject to duly authorized powers, if any, conferred by Article 6 of the Constitution of Missouri.” Food producers must work together with local and county governments.

In addition to the local control issue, opponents are saying that the amendment will allow big agri-business to basically write their own rules with no governmental oversight. Again, this is not true. All agri-business must comply with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and State Department of Natural Resources guidelines, and these regulations will not go away. Food producers are, for the most part, good stewards of both their animals and the environment because they realize the importance of properly caring for these resources for future generations. This amendment will not protect bad producers, nor will it give producers a blank check to do whatever they want. As previously stated, all rights are subject to reasonable regulation, and successful food producers understand and work within the established boundaries.

Another area of false accusation is that the measure would open the door for Missouri farm land to be purchased by foreign corporations, basically, a reference to the sale of the Smithfield Company to a Chinese corporation. Smithfield is a Virginia-based pork corporation who had previously purchased facilities in Missouri.  It was their company’s decision to sell to the Chinese, and the approval of this sale was granted by the Obama Administration, not by the state of Missouri. Missouri has strong laws prohibiting sales of land to foreign corporations. This sale was another instance of federal law trumping state law.

Opponents accuse that the amendment will give farmers the right to grow a crop like marijuana. The response to this is not so. Federal, state, and local laws are in place prohibiting this practice.

It is important for Missourians to consider the negative outcome that other states have experienced as a result of the anti-agriculture groups and their propaganda that opposes valid agriculture practices and production methods. The Farming Rights Amendment is supported by thousands of family farmers who make up Missouri Farmers Care member organizations who have all endorsed this amendment. The Right to Farm Amendment is needed to help protect both consumers and producers and the availability of food supplies. Not doing so at this time could result in serious long term consequences for all of us who like to eat.

If I can be of help to you with this or any other state matter, please do not hesitate to contact me by one of the following means:

Mail: Bill Reiboldt, Office 235-BB, State Capitol, 201 W. Capitol, Jefferson City, Mo. 65101. Telephone: (573) 751-9781.  Personal cell phone: 456-0441.

Email: bill.reiboldt@house.mo.gov. My website is www.billreiboldt.com. Find me on Facebook at facebook.com/morepbill or follow me on Twitter@MORepBill.

 Bill Reiboldt represents the people of Newton and McDonald counties in the Missouri House of Representatives.