When August 5 rolls around, people across the Show-Me-State will vote on an Amendment to the Missouri Constitution, one which Missouri Farmers Care says will "protect the hard-working Missouri farm families who dedicate their lives to feeding our families; saving thousands of Missouri jobs and ensuring our families continue to have access to quality food at the grocery store."
Amendment 1, otherwise known as the Missouri Farming Rights Amendment or Right to Farm, seeks to guarantee farmers and ranchers the right to engage in their livelihoods and produce food, and protect them from out-of-state activists like the Humane Society of the United States.
Driving along Missouri's highways and Interstates, you've likely seen the orange signs of support next to pastures and fields of corn and soybeans. For over a year, Missouri Farmers Care has been reaching out to voters through local television and radio stations and meetings across the state, and doesn't plan on letting up on its campaign over the next two weeks.
"Our volunteers will be following voters across the state, doing anything we can to finish strong," says Dan Kleinsorge, executive director of Missouri Farmers Care at Victory Enterprises.
Support and opposition
Although Missouri Governor Jay Nixon is leaning toward opposition, Kleinsorge says this isn't cause for concern. "We have the support of Attorney General Koster, the support of the state auditor [Tom Schweich], and almost the entire congressional delegation's support," Kleinsorge says. "We have a lot of support from agriculture as well, so we feel pretty good about it."
Support includes Missouri-based agriculture groups like Missouri Corn Growers Association, Missouri Soybeans, Missouri Farm Bureau, Missouri Cattlemen's Association, and Missouri Pork Association, as well as national groups like Protect the Harvest and American Soybean Association, which make up the Missouri Farmers Care organization.
It's also drawn support from Missouri officials, including the Amendment's sponsor, Representative Bill Reinboldt, R-District 160, and Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor in 2016.
Animal rights groups like HSUS are in opposition, along with groups the Missouri Farmers Union and Missouri Food for America – which acts as a front group to HSUS, according to Missouri Farmers Care.
Missouri Food for America is led by former Missouri Senator Wes Shoemeyer and former Lieutenant Governor Joe Maxwell. Both are hog farmers, members of the Missouri Farmers Union, and appear on the HSUS website as supporters.
Maxwell is HSUS's vice president of outreach and engagement, and Missouri Food for America's deputy treasurer, Amanda Good, is also the HSUS Missouri state director, Kleinsorge says.
Line of defense
Contrary to claims from these groups that the Amendment favors corporations rather than family farms, Kleinsorge says the Amendment was "made by family farmers and for family farmers."
Actually, 98% of farms in Missouri are family farms, according to Missouri Farm Bureau. "We've had over 1,000 individuals contribute and probably 95 out of 100 are farmers," Kleinsorge says. "This Amendment doesn't favor any one type of agriculture. It favors all farmers. It doesn't favor one sector over another."
What it does do, he says, is provide the kind of protection, or legal standing Missouri farmers don't currently have – and it doesn't supersede federal legislation, he adds.
This means protection against ballot initiatives like the HSUS-backed Proposition B, which when passed, limited the number of dogs breeders could own to 50. While farmers feared it could extend to include livestock, Missouri Farmers Care organized to support a revision to lift the cap, ultimately leading to the Missouri legislature voting to approve a bill repealing the 50-animal cap.
"Amendment 1 gives us a tool in our legal toolbox we don't have right now to protect against ballot initiatives," Kleinsorge says. "It would make it less likely for groups like HSUS to pursue something like [Proposition B] in the first place."