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Columbia Missourian

Former lieutenant governor speaks against 'right to farm' amendment at potluck

By Chris Jasper
June 7, 2014 | 6:47 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Although the Aug. 5 primary ballot is still almost two months away, a "right-to-farm" amendment on the ballot is already making waves in Columbia.

If passed, Amendment 1, also known as the Missouri Farming Rights Amendment or the "right-to-farm" amendment, would amend the Missouri Constitution to "forever guarantee" the rights of ranchers and farmers to engage in "farming and ranching practices."

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Peoples' Visioning, a community advocacy group, hosted a non-GMO potluck at Cafe Berlin on Saturday to educate its members on Amendment 1 and to encourage them to vote against the proposed measure. The group also brought in former legislator and Lieutenant Governor Joe Maxwell to speak about the proposed amendment.

The amendment has been the subject of a statewide media blitz in the past week. U.S. Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler traveled to Columbia to voice her support for the bill on Wednesday. She joined an ever-growing number of politicians advocating the bill, which now includes Billy Long, Jason Smith, Blaine Luetkemeyer, Sam Graves and Emanuel Cleaver, according to a Wednesday news release from Missouri Farmers Care.

The bill's proponents say that by protecting practices such as genetically modifying crops and using pesticides, it will keep food prices down and provide a larger selection of food, according to previous Missourian reporting.

Maxwell said he didn't understand that logic.

"Voting 'no' on this amendment isn't going to make food prices higher," he said. "That's just a scare tactic to get progressives to vote 'yes.'"

Families already have a right to farm, he added. In fact, he said, voting "yes" on Amendment 1 could cost Missouri residents more.

"What's the real cost to the environment?" he said. "What's the cost of treating contaminated water (from high-density livestock facilities) so people can drink it?"

Maxwell said the amendment wasn't designed to help smaller family farms, but is instead intended to aid large agribusinesses like Monsanto, Cargill and Smithfield Foods.

He said family farms are already happy with the protection they receive under the existing "right-to-farm" legislation and the Family Farms Act, which defines what constitutes a small farmer and created a loan program for them.

The Missouri General Assembly passed its first "right to farm" statute in 1982 to prevent farms from being sued as public nuisances by new neighbors. The legislature later strengthened the statue to protect farms from being sued as long as they followed federal, state and county regulations.

Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.