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'Right to Farm' Passes Narrowly, Recount Possible

(Kristopher Husted/Harvest Public Media)

Missouri’s so-called “Right to Farm” amendment appears to have passed Tuesday but with such a small margin that there could be a recount.

With all precincts reporting, Amendment 1 won by just 2,528 votes.

At a victory party Tuesday night, Missouri Farm Bureau President Blake Hurst said he will watch to see if a recount is requested but he doesn’t expect the results to change.

“I’m fully confident that the vote will stand,” he said.

The vote must be certified, which is expected within seven days, before a petition for recount may be filed, Laura Swinford, a spokeswoman for the Secretary of State, told KBIA.

Although Missouri, along with every other state, has “right to farm” laws, this measure would enshrine the idea in the state constitution. The Missouri Farm Bureau, which largely funded it along with several commodity groups, says it’s needed to protect farmers who use modern farm practices.

But the measure’s critics, which included small farmers, animal advocates and environmentalists, said it was an ambiguous amendment that would allow large-scale producers to overstep state pollution and animal welfare laws.

“It’s not about Missouri’s right to farm. It’s about China’s right to farm in Missouri,” Richard Oswald, president of the Missouri Farmers Union, which opposed the measure, says in a television commercial.

That’s a reference to Smithfield Foods Inc., a global pork producer, that was bought by a Chinese company last year.

Oswald says the goal of Amendment 1 is to “change our constitution so foreign corporations get a free pass to abuse our land, drinking water and animals, and we lose our right to stop them.”

The group Missouri Farmers Care, organized by the Farm Bureau, raised more than $1 million with  more than a third of that — about $363,000 — from the Missouri Pork Association, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

As Harvest Public Media’s Kristofer Husted has reported, large farm groups promoted the amendment as a way to stay a step ahead of the groups that use regulations to change the way farmers do business.

Some Midwest farmers feel under attack from animal welfare groups and environmental organizations that are trying to change “(these farm) practices that are proven, that are safe, that are good for consumers, good for farmers and good for the environment,” Hurst said.

Amendment 1 reads: “Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to ensure that the right of Missouri citizens to engage in agricultural production and ranching practices shall not be infringed?”

The only other state to have a “Right to Farm” amendment is North Dakota. It says farmers engaged in “modern” agriculture can not be barred from using “agricultural technology, modern livestock production and ranching practices.”

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