Amendment One would not protect Missouri family farms

Amendment One would not protect Missouri family farms

July 02, 2014 10:30 pm • By Richard R. Oswald

This summer, during the state primary election on Aug. 5, Missouri voters will decide the question known as Amendment One to our state Constitution; “Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to ensure the right of Missouri citizens to engage in agricultural production and ranching practices shall not be infringed?”

The Missouri ballot raises several more questions that will undoubtedly not be determined by voters, but in a court of law instead.

Who is a Missouri citizen?

Courts will probably say a citizen is any person residing in the state of Missouri. Since the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution has been interpreted to protect both cold-blooded corporations or flesh-and-blood people, Amendment One does nothing to change the US Supreme Court perception that a corporation is a person.

Who is a farmer or rancher?

Clearly, a farmer or rancher is anyone who engages in those practices of farming or ranching.

Tyson, Cargill, and Chinese owned Smithfield raise hogs and chickens, and engage in agricultural production. They are farmers.

JBS of Brazil, Cargill and Tyson raise cattle. They are ranchers.

Amendment One does not differentiate between human beings and legal entity corporations.

What is the meaning of infringed?

Suppose a large corporation has a business plan requiring huge amounts of water and electric power. Their water requirements may mean that you will not have enough water for your own needs. And power lines supplying electricity to the corporation will have to cross your property, decreasing its value.

As a private citizen our state constitution would prevent you from infringing upon the rights of the corporation to do what it wants by denying access. Amendment One could even become back door eminent domain, giving corporations the power to take property they need in order to fulfill their right to be farmers or ranchers.

Amendment One has been portrayed as something that will protect independent family farmers and our strong agricultural heritage in Missouri. But, in fact, there is nothing in the single sentence question of Amendment One that mentions or even implies any support for family farming. There are no definitions, no instructions, no indications of intent to guide judges when they interpret Amendment One as they most surely will. Amendment One leaves our state constitution and our individual rights wide open to legal challenges by attorneys representing wealthy corporations.

Amendment One won’t help beginning farmers obtain operating loans or gain access to land. It won’t make livestock markets more fair or diversify grain markets. It does nothing to stem unfair foreign competition and the ongoing decline of family farm numbers in our state.

In recent sessions the Missouri General Assembly has increased the amount of Missouri farmland foreign corporations can own. They have made it harder for people — real Missouri citizens — to practice local control, protect themselves from corporate pollution and gain better access to clean water and air. Amendment One would do nothing to rectify those infringements.

In reality, Amendment One would guarantee a few large companies the right to dominate ever more of Missouri’s most productive rural landscape, exercising even more control over property rights and the way we grow our food.