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'Right-To-Farm' Tour Hits Jefferson City; Former Lt. Gov. Criticizes Proposal

Marshall Griffin/St. Louis Public Radio

Backers of a proposed constitutional amendment to limit regulations on farmers and ranchers in Missouri continue to tour the state this week.

Four Republican members of Congress are making individual appearances around Missouri on behalf of Constitutional Amendment 1, or the "Right to Farm and Ranch" amendment.  U.S. Rep. Billy Long, R-Springfield, kicked off the campaign Monday at a feed and fertilizer store in Springfield. Long encouraged farmers to stay unified in their support of the proposal.

"All this corporate farming and all that stuff, they are going to throw everything they can at you, so just remember that," Long said.  "You are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts."

On Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-St. Elizabeth, campaigned for the amendment in Jefferson City at the Missouri Farm Bureau headquarters.  He told a small crowd of supporters there that farmers and ranchers are under attack by both activists and bureaucrats.

"From the Washington side, I see it regularly," Luetkemeyer said.  "Different agencies throughout the bureaucracy are promulgating rules and regulations that have a dramatic impact on the farmer's ability to do his job, (to) produce cheap and ample supplies of food in a safe way."

Luetkemeyer was joined by officials from other agriculture interests. MFA Vice President Alan Wessler, a veterinarian, says the proposed amendment is essential to protecting Missouri's No. 1 industry.

"I am concerned with animal rights and environmental activists' efforts," Wessler said, "groups with deep pockets and zeal, but who lack good, fundamental understanding about animal agriculture and crop production."

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Jason Smith,R-Cape Girardeau, had a scheduled stop late Tuesday at a right-to-farm event held at a cheesecake restaurant in Cape Girardeau, while U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Harrisonville, is set to campaign for the measure in Columbia on Wednesday at MFA headquarters.

Constitutional Amendment 1 is drawing national opposition, from both PETA and the Humane Society of the United States.  Former Missouri Lt. Gov. Joe Maxwell, a Democrat, now works as the HSUS' vice president of outreach and engagement.  He also operates a hog farm in Audrain County.

"This initiative isn't about protecting Missouri's family farmers; (it's) about protecting large agricultural interests. They want constitutional protection like no other company has in the state of Missouri or in this country," Maxwell said.  "They want protection to do what they want on our countryside, and to animals, to farmers, and to the environment."

Maxwell added that recent battles over dog breeding regulations are helping to drive the right-to-farm amendment, but he primarily cited efforts to expand large hog breeding operations, sometimes referred to as CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations).

"(Chinese-owned) Smithfield (now) owns 50,000 acres of Missouri farmland, and they're wanting to expand CAFOs across Missouri so they can export pork to China," Maxwell said.  "They've joined together with other multinational corporations, such as Monsanto, who want to insure that those of us that want to be non-GMO farmers won't be able to have basic safeguards to protect our seed from their genetically modified organisms."

The measure's supporters contend they're the ones who are trying to safeguard the meats and produce Missourians buy and consume.

"Our food supply is the most ample, safest, and cheapest in the world," Luetkemeyer said.  "Unless we do what it takes to protect that, not only will that be endangered, but our way of life, the farmer's way of life, will be in danger."

Missouri voters will decide on the proposed constitutional amendment in the Aug. 5 primary.

KSMU - Ozark Public Radio contributed to this report.

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:  @MarshallGReport

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.

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