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Published May 20, 2013, 09:30 AM

'Right to farm' advances in Mo.

The Missouri State Legislature on May 14 passed legislation that would allow farmers and ranchers to engage in modern farming practices.

By: Jonathan Knutson, Agweek

Missouri could become the second state in the nation to approve a “right-to-farm” constitutional amendment.

The Missouri State Legislature on May 14 passed legislation that would allow farmers and ranchers to engage in modern farming practices. That clears the way for the measure to be sent before Missouri voters on a statewide ballot in 2014.

The legislation’s intent is to “protect the freedom to operate, protect the ability to produce,” says Brian Klippenstein, executive director of Protect the Harvest, an organization that supports Missouri’s right-to-farm proposal.

North Dakota voters approved a right-to-farm constitutional amendment in 2012, making the state the first to have one.

Both proponents and opponents of the North Dakota amendment said it could spark similar efforts in other states.

“North Dakota was just such an inspiring example,” Klippenstein says.

According to published reports, supporters of the Missouri right-to-farm legislation say they fear out-of-state interests will try to impose too many regulations on farms and ranchers in the state.

In 2010, a dog-breeding law was passed in Missouri with financial support from The Humane Society of the United States and other animal welfare groups.

The 2010 law was “controversial, with acrimonious advertising on both sides” and helped motivate supporters of the right-to-farm legislation, says Pat Westhoff, director of the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

The right-to-farm legislation enjoyed broad support among Missouri farm groups, he says.

Agriculture is important in Missouri, but the state also has a large urban population.

Given that, it’s hard to predict whether Missouri voters will approve the right-to-farm legislation, Westhoff says.

“It will be interesting to watch what happens,” he says.

Efforts in Okla.

The Oklahoma State Legislature also considered right-to-farm legislation this spring, but ultimately decided not to send it to state voters.

State Rep. Scott Biggs, R-Chickasha, who authored the legislation, says he expects to reintroduce it in the 2014 legislative session.

He isn’t certain why his proposal didn’t clear the legislature this year.

The Oklahoma Farm Bureau made passage of the right-to-farm legislation a priority, according to its website.

Officials with the Oklahoma Farm Bureau referred questions to Biggs.

Looking for partners

Protect the Harvest, based in Davenport, Iowa, bills itself as a coalition of farmers, ranchers, hunters and animal owners concerned about “the growing threat posed by the radical animal rights fringe.”

Businessman Forrest Lucas is a principal member of Protect the Harvest, Klippenstein says.

Lucas is best known for Lucas Oil Co. The company paid for the naming rights to Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, where the Indianapolis Colts professional football team plays.

Protect the Harvest isn’t trying to recruit new members, Klippenstein says. Rather, it’s looking to partner with other organizations across the country that share its beliefs, Klippenstein says.

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