COLUMBIA — U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler visited MFA Inc. on Wednesday to offer her support for Amendment 1, also known as the "Missouri Farming Rights Amendment."
Hartzler, a Republican who owns and lives on farmland, said she thought the amendment would be good for consumers in Missouri.
A joint resolution passed by the Missouri General Assembly in 2013 placed the right-to-farm amendment on the ballot. The resolution proposes adding a section to Article I of the Missouri Constitution. The language for that section would be:
"That agriculture which provides food, energy, health benefits, and security is the foundation and stabilizing force of Missouri's economy. To protect this vital sector of Missouri's economy, 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."
Article VI of the constitution contains provisions related to the structure and powers of local governments.
Here is the language of the amendment as it will appear on ballots:
"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?"
"Agriculture is Missouri's No. 1 industry," she said. "This amendment will ensure that farmers and ranchers will be able to raise their livestock and crops with common-sense practices to keep costs low and maintain an abundant (food) supply."
Hartzler joined fellow U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, who provided his support for the amendment Tuesday.
The August ballot asks voters whether the right to "engage in farming and ranching practices" should be "forever guaranteed" to ranchers and farmers in the Missouri Constitution. The Republican-led legislature referred the bill to the ballot during last year's session.
Missouri Farmers Bureau President Blake Hurst echoed Hartzler's concerns.
"We are under tremendous public scrutiny for practices that make (farmers') successes possible," he said, citing concerns regarding large livestock facilities, genetically modified organisms, antibiotics and pesticides in crops.
"Consumers can have free-range eggs and organic milk if they want it," he added. "You have plenty of choices. But if your budget matters, you want the most efficient production possible."
In an interview before the news conference, state Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, said the real purpose of the bill was to help concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs. CAFOs have been called a public health concern because of the large amount of waste they produce.
Kelly, who called the amendment "political smoke and mirrors," wanted to know what the amendment would actually accomplish.
"What does it do?" he asked rhetorically. "What is illegal before that will become legal, or what is legal that will become illegal?"
Kelly said it was silly to enact a law that doesn't do anything, and the vague nature of the amendment could have unintended consequences.
Missouri residents can vote on the amendment during the Aug. 5 primary elections.
Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.