Missouri 'Right to Farm' debate not over - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Missouri 'Right to Farm' debate not over

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CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - Missouri voters gave the go head for "right to farm" or constitutional amendment No. 1 is right for the state on Tuesday, August 5.

The measure voters saw read as follows:

"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 potential costs or savings to governmental entities are unknown, but likely limited unless the resolution leads to increased litigation costs and/or the loss of federal funding."

The measure asked voters to decide if farmers and ranchers have the right to continue farming and producing food for others.

If you voted yes, it meant you want to amend the constitution to guarantee Missourians the right to work their land and raise their cattle.

If you voted no, you're saying you want to keep things the way it is.

The ballot measure was a heavily debated issue.

Supporters of the amendment say it would protect them from government regulation that limits what they have been doing for years.

"I've raised beef cattle probably for the last 40 years. So I've had all the hands on experience and I really don't need someone telling me how to raise cattle," cattleman Terry Miller said.

Other groups, like Missouri's Food For America say this amendment will keep local governments from stopping foreign companies from polluting and contaminating the land.

If passed, this measure is expected to have no impact on taxes.

Even after Missourians voted on this measure, a lot of people said they still aren't quite sure what it all means. 

It seems like it could be self explanatory ... right to farm. But the meaning behind those three simple words, isn't so simple.

"It's going to take some time to see what it really means," said Laura Hatcher.

Hatcher is a new professor at Southeast Missouri State and specializes in agriculture policy. She said the wording on Amendment 1 is vague.

For example, it will protect the right of farmers and ranchers to engage in farming and ranching practices.

What exactly are those practices, and who exactly qualifies as a farmer and rancher?

That's where Hatcher said this debate may end up in a Missouri courtroom.

"Just need to watch what the courts do with that as the courts decide what that really means," said Hatcher. 

For instance, if a city ordinance says you can't have chickens in your backyard but you want to have chickens, and claim it's is part of your right to farm.

Hatcher said it will be up to a judge to decide if you're technically a farmer to deserve those rights.

"If I was a Missouri state judge right now, I'd be thinking please not me," said Hatcher.

And Hatcher said it's important to remember this amendment won't overrule the authority local governments already have under state law.

A lot of local farmers told us they worry about EPA regulations affecting their business, so they voted to pass the amendment.

But as Hatcher said, in most cases, people will still have to follow federal rules.

"The state amendment is not going to do a whole lot if it's a federal regulation," said Hatcher.

Hatcher said a recount is inevitable.

Copyright 2014 KFVS. All rights reserved.

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