IBJNews

Agriculture industry seeks to create right to farm

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

In the nation's agricultural heartland, farming is more than a multibillion-dollar industry that feeds the world. It 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.

The emerging battle could have lasting repercussions for the nation's food supply and for the millions of people worldwide who depend on U.S. agricultural exports. It's also possible that the right-to-farm idea could sputter as a merely symbolic gesture that carries little practical effect beyond driving up voter turnout in local elections.

"A couple of years from now, we might say this was the beginning of the trend," said Rusty Rumley, a senior staff attorney at the National Agricultural Law Center in Fayetteville, Ark. But "we really don't even know what they're going to mean."

Animal advocates and other groups are increasingly urging consumers, grocers and restaurants to pay as much attention to how their food is raised as to how it tastes. Their goals include trying to curtail what they consider cruel methods of raising livestock and unsafe ways of growing food.

Those efforts are helping to fuel the right-to-farm movement in the Midwest, where the right has already won approval in North Dakota and Indiana. It goes next to Missouri voters in an Aug. 5 election. Similar measures passed both chambers of the Oklahoma Legislature earlier this year before dying in a conference committee. And they could soon spread elsewhere.

The uncertainty surrounding the proposals stems from the vague wording of the measures, which have yet to be tested in court.

Missouri's proposed constitutional amendment asks voters whether the right "to engage in farming and ranching practices shall be forever guaranteed."

Indiana's new measure — which was written into state law but not enshrined in the constitution— protects the rights of farmers to use "generally accepted" practices, including "the use of ever-changing technology." The North Dakota measure prohibits any law that "abridges the right of farmers and ranchers to employ agricultural technology, modern livestock production and ranching practices."

Supporters hope the wording provides a legal shield against initiatives that would restrict particular farming methods, such as those modeled after a California law setting minimum cage space for hens or policies in Florida and Ohio that bar tight pens for pregnant pigs. Others hope to pre-empt any proposals to ban genetically modified crops similar to ones recently passed in southern Oregon.

"Agriculture's had a lot folks that's been trying to come down on our farms and tell us what we can and cannot do," said Neal Bredehoeft, a corn and soybean farmer who supports the Missouri measure. He added: "This gives us a little bit of protection."

Bredehoeft gave $100 to the political group backing Missouri's ballot measure. His money is being mixed with five-figure checks from the state corn and pork associations, the Farm Bureau and businesses with strong financial stakes in rural America, such as electric cooperatives and a farm-credit organization.

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."

ADVERTISEMENT

  • A bunch of BS
    It's clear as day that these farmers and big-ag companies want to protect themselves from people seeing the truth about the atrocities they inflict upon animals, even the "humanely raised" ones!
  • These laws are ridiculous
    These "farmers" (really corporations) are not doing it for their own fun or for their own tables. They control our food supply, and we sure as heck get to have a say over how our food is made.

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
 
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. I think the poster was being sarcastic and only posting or making fun of what is usually posted on here about anything being built in BR or d'town for that matter.

  2. Great news IRL fans: TURBO the IMS sanctioned movie about slugs running the Indy 500 has caught the Securities and Exchange Commission because Dreamworks had to take a $132MILLION write down...because the movie was such a flop. See, the Indy/IMS magic soiled another pair of drawers. Bwahahahahahaha! How's CARTOWN doing? HAHAHAHA...Indy is for losers.

  3. So disappointed in WIBC. This is the last straw to lose a good local morning program. I used to be able to rely on WIBC to give me good local information, news, weather and traffic on my 45 minute commute.Two incidents when I needed local, accurate information regarding severe weather were the first signs I could not now rely on WIBC. I work weekend 12 hour nights for a downtown hospital. This past winter when we had the worst snowfall in my 50 years of life, I came home on a Sunday morning, went to sleep (because I was to go back in Sunday night for another 12 hour shift), and woke up around 1 p.m. to a house with no electricity. I keep an old battery powered radio around and turned on WIBC to see what was going on with the winter storm and the roads and the power outage. Sigh. Only policital stuff. Not even a break in to update on the winter storm warning. The second weather incident occurred when I was driving home during a severe thunderstorm a few months ago. I had already gotten a call from my husband that a tornado warning was just southwest of where I had been. I turned to WIBC to find out what direction the storm was headed so I could figure out a route home, only to find Rush on the air, and again, no breaking away from this stupidity to give me information. Thank God for my phone, which gave me the warning that I was driving in an area where a tornado was seen. Thanks for nothing WIBC. Good luck to you, Steve! We need more of you and not the politics of hatred that WIBC wants to shove at us. Good thing I have Satellite radio.

  4. I read the retail roundup article and tried Burritos and Beers tonight. I'm glad I did, for the food was great. Fresh authentic Mexican food. Great seasoning on the carne asada. A must try!!! Thanks for sharing.

  5. John, unfortunately CTRWD wants to put the tank(s) right next to a nature preserve and at the southern entrance to Carmel off of Keystone. Not exactly the kind of message you want to send to residents and visitors (come see our tanks as you enter our city and we build stuff in nature preserves...

ADVERTISEMENT