Agriculture Industry Seeks to Create 'Right to Farm'

by Associated Press  on Thursday, Jul. 10, 2014 1:56 pm  

Farming could be on track to become a right, written into law alongside the freedom of speech and religion. Some powerful agriculture interests want to declare farming a right at the state level as part of a wider campaign to fortify the ag industry against crusades by animal-welfare activists and opponents of genetically modified crops. (Photo by AP)

They're preparing for an advertising blitz against a coalition that includes the Humane Society of the United States, the Sierra Club and rural groups that have battled for decades against corporate hog and poultry operations.

Opponents fear the right-to-farm measures could be cited by corporate farms to escape unwanted regulations against pollution and unsanitary conditions.

"This is a fight in each state," said Joe Maxwell, a former Missouri lieutenant governor who is the Humane Society's vice president of outreach and engagement.

Stopping the proposals at the ballot box "sends a message: Don't waste your money," he added.

North Dakota voters approved their right-to-farm measure by a two-thirds vote in 2012 after a relatively low-profile campaign in which the North Dakota Farm Bureau spent $158,000 promoting the measure. Opponents spent little.

The state Farm Bureau pursued the initiative after the Humane Society of the United States unsuccessfully pushed a measure two years earlier to abolish fenced hunting preserves in North Dakota.

Soon, agriculture leaders from Iowa to Idaho and numerous other places were inquiring about how to do something similar, said Jeffrey Missling, executive vice president of the North Dakota Farm Bureau.

A year ago, the North Dakota measure was a topic for discussion as legislative agriculture chairmen from across the U.S. gathered for a conference in Vancouver, Canada. The event by the State Agriculture and Rural Leaders Association was financed by dozens of agriculture businesses, including Archer Daniels Midland Co., Cargill, DuPont Pioneer, Deere & Co. and Tyson Foods. Among those present was Missouri Rep. Bill Reiboldt, a farmer who sponsored the right-to-farm amendment referred to this year's ballot by the Republican-led state Legislature.

The outcome of Missouri's vote could influence what happens next in the right-to-farm movement.

"There's a lot of rural people who would like to see it be a trend," said Carolyn Orr, executive secretary of the State Agriculture and Rural Leaders Association.

If it passes here, she added, "other state legislators will look at it more seriously."

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