I was happy to see the good folks of Missouri pass an amendment protecting farming, one of our most basic and important pursuits. I wasn't happy that some saw it as a necessary amendment. The biggest surprise was it passed by the slimmest of margins. It was Jenny Craig thin. New York runway model thin. Unofficial returns showed it received just 50.13% of the vote.
The official ballot language 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 language reads innocently enough. Who could possibly want to limit farming in Missouri? It would be like limiting the right to breath or eat a hot dog at a Cardinals baseball game. Farming is apple pie and the flag. For most people in agriculture, it is absolutely the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness. But even within that small family, there was dissent.
In a state that prides itself on being one of the centers of American agriculture, the right to farm carried the day by just .13%. That thinnest of margins was the painful result of a battle between rural and urban voters which is to be expected. The two groups have little in common and almost no understanding of each other. There was another even more painful battle, an internecine was between 'big' farmers and 'little' farmers. It was a family spat and those are often the most damaging.
Richard Oswald, president of the Missouri Farmers Union, writing against the bill in an opinion piece for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch earlier this year, said "Here in Missouri, where agriculture has always been mainstay, we are no strangers to big food. Traditional livestock growing regions in Missouri are two sides of the same coin as family farm cattle herds graze within feet of massive corporate poultry and hog confinements."
Blake Hurst, president of the Missouri Farming Bureau and a proponent of the bill, talked with KBIA public radio shortly after the vote was announced. He said “This was necessary because of the movements that we have seen all across the country, and here in Missouri, to try to change agriculture in a way that would have harmed consumers. Just in the past few months we’ve seen ballot initiatives passed in California, Oregon and Hawaii that have denied farmers safe and efficient technology. That’s why what we did here this evening is so very important.”
Mike Deering, Executive Vice President, Missouri Cattlemen's Association, attempting to clarify the several bones of contention between the two farm groups, wrote "So why the confusion? Vice President of Outreach and Engagement for the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) Joe Maxwell and his sidekicks packed a lot of misleading information, topped with outright lies into a “confusion grenade” and threw it out in the middle of a crowd and watched as innocent Missourians are caught up in a web of intentional head scratching."