UPDATE: GOP Congress members back Missouri 'right to farm' measure

Tuesday, June 3, 2014 | 5:01 p.m. CDT; updated 7:33 a.m. CDT, Friday, June 13, 2014

JEFFERSON CITY — A proposed constitutional amendment that would create a "right to farm" in Missouri is getting support from the state's Republican members of Congress, who are publicizing it during events throughout the state this week.

Agriculture has a target on its back and must be promoted and protected, U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer said Tuesday in Jefferson City.

"This amendment is a great step forward by the agricultural community, the agricultural industry, to push back," said Luetkemeyer, who represents a congressional district that stretches from the Lake of the Ozarks to the outer St. Louis suburbs.

The August ballot proposal asks voters whether the right "to engage in farming and ranching" should be "forever guaranteed" in the Missouri Constitution. The Republican-led state legislature last year referred it to the ballot, and the measure has been endorsed by the Missouri Republican State Committee.

Other Republican members of Congress were discussing the proposal during other events this week, including in Springfield and Cape Girardeau.

Some opposition has arisen, such as from former Democratic state lawmaker Wes Shoemyer, who formed Missouri's Food for America coalition. Shoemyer, a farmer from northeast Missouri, said the proposal could create a lot of ambiguity in state law and lead to legal disputes. He said the party with more money often does better in court.

"Our family farmers already enjoy these rights statutorily," he said. "They do not need it."

Various farming organizations support the constitutional amendment, and Luetkemeyer spoke at the Missouri Farm Bureau in Jefferson City.

Farm groups and rural Republicans began pushing for it after a 2010 conflict surrounding an initiative petition dealing with dog breeding. It is supported by Missouri Farmers Care, which is a coalition of several farming associations.

It reported more than $300,000 on-hand as of March 31, and at least some of those funds could be used to promote the constitutional amendment on the ballot.

A right-to-farm constitutional amendment recently passed in North Dakota, pushed by farm organizations after an unsuccessful attempt to abolish fenced hunting preserves.

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