WHAT OTHERS SAY: Agriculture infested by 'constitutionitis'

Saturday, April 13, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CDT

Agriculture, both farming and ranching, has sustained people pretty much since the dawn of man.

Today, however, some fear exists that agriculture will not survive unless enshrined in Missouri’s Constitution.

Is this a realistic fear or simply another manifestation of what we call “constitutionitis” — the propensity among policy-makers to elevate every idea to constitutional status?

Let us be clear. We support agriculture. We like to eat. We affirm “the right of farmers and ranchers to engage in modern farming and ranching practices” — which is language from the proposed amendment.

Do we believe a constitutional amendment is necessary to protect agriculture? No.

Senators either believe it is necessary — they approved a recent version by a 32-1 vote — or are unwilling to risk being perceived as not entirely supportive.

The proposed amendment was created by policy-makers and agriculture associations who contend farming is under attack and needs protection.

During a Senate committee hearing on the issue in March, Missouri Farm Bureau President Blake Hurst said: “It’s our opinion that farming and ranching are under attack throughout the United States, by the Humane Society of the United States and their allies.”

Contention between agriculture and animal welfare interests was intensified during the campaign for Proposition B, an animal rights law approved by voters and later altered by lawmakers.

That scenario may explain the push for a constitutional amendment.

A law approved by voters, such as Proposition B, may be changed by the Legislature. In contrast, a constitutional amendment must be approved by voters and cannot be altered by lawmakers, only by a subsequent vote of the people.

Previously in this forum, we have opposed amendments on taxation and education.

Add this proposal to the list; although we support the issue, agriculture, we oppose the method, amending the constitution.

An irony of constitutionitis is if it persists, an amendment will be needed to eliminate the state Legislature, which eventually will become superfluous and obsolete.

Copyright Jefferson City News Tribune. Reprinted with permission.

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