The good news is that Missouri’s Right to Farm amendment is now part of the state’s constitution. The bad news is that the message voters received might makes things even worse.
Voters in Missouri faced a seemingly straightforward question in this week’s primary election: Do they support the right to farm?
The answer was a razor-thin approval of Amendment 1, which enshrines that right in the state constitution. However, the debates that were stirred up by the controversial nature of the proposal re-energized anti-GMO activists, handed over yet more ammo to corporate farming haters and widened an already contentious urban-rural divide in a state where agriculture plays a prominent role in the economy.
Certainly, there was no broad-based support for agriculture’s right to do anything among residents of the state’s two biggest cities, St. Louis and Kansas City. Voters in those metro areas soundly rejected the amendment, and post-election analyses pointed to concerns about foreign-owned companies, like the Chinese conglomerate Shaunghui International, plus lingering aversion to a number of farming practices, notably the cultivation of genetically engineered crops.
On one hand, the coalition backing the amendment, which included a veritable who’s who of the state’s agricultural industry—the Missouri Farming Bureau, Missouri Cattlemen’s Association, Missouri Pork Association, Missouri Dairy Association, Missouri Sheep Producers, Missouri Equine Council, Missouri Corn Growers Association, Missouri Soybeans—has to feel good that language strengthening protections for all of agriculture is now officially part of the state’s constitution.
The coalition spent a reported $600,000 just in the last few months prior to the primary, so one would have to consider that money well-spent. Plus, a defeat for the Humane Society of the United States, the biggest backer of the opposition, is always a good thing.
But I question some of the messaging from the pro-agriculture folks, claiming that this amendment was needed to protect producers and farmers from “overzealous environmentalists, animal rights advocates and foodies who want greater regulation of agriculture,” according to news reports quoting the Missouri Farming Bureau.
I’m not sure that kind of preaching even resonates with the choir.
A better approach
For one thing, a sizeable majority of consumers do care about the environment, many very deeply. We should all care about the environment, especially ranchers and farmers, whose livelihood is totally dependent on “the environment.”