Local groups sue over Missouri ‘Right to Farm’ vote

By Spencer Chase

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Oct. 15, 2014 - Missouri's Amendment 1 passed by a slim 2,375-vote margin in August, but the measure isn't out of the woods yet.

Three individuals are bringing a lawsuit before the state's Supreme Court seeking to send the controversial amendment back to the legislature and eventually to hold a re-vote on the issue. The individuals all play prominent roles in local groups that were opposed to the measure: Wes Shoemyer, Missouri's Food for America president, Richard Oswald, Missouri Farmers Union president, and Darvin Bentlage, Missouri Rural Crisis Center board member.

Together we can feed the Bees"

“We and our organizations are fighting hard for what's right in agriculture and our rural communities.  We took this action to insure our citizens are protected from the misleading tactics we have seen throughout this fight,” Shoemyer said in a statement.

The group contends misleading language on the ballot may have skewed the results of the election. The actual constitutional language of the measure said “the right of farmers and ranchers to engage in farming and ranching practices shall be forever guaranteed in this state,” but the ballot summary said it pertained to rights of “Missouri citizens to engage in agricultural production and ranching practices.” The group said they are seeking the measure to either be revisited by the legislature or to face another vote with “fair and impartial ballot language,” a spokesman for the group said.

Proponents of the amendment say the lawsuit is being brought by local allies of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), saying further opposition would be bad for Missouri farmers. Dan Nikodim, chairman of Missouri Farmers Care - a group comprised of numerous state agricultural stakeholders - said the voters have already spoken.

"The hard work and support of hundreds of thousands of Missourians made Amendment 1 a reality,” Nikodim said. “This new suit shows how relentless HSUS is in their mission to stop Missouri agriculture and it shows exactly why Missourians made the right choice in supporting the Missouri Farming Rights Amendment."

HSUS is not named in the lawsuit, but Shoemyer did not dispute that the organization was on their side in the fight against Amendment 1. He said HSUS was part of a “broad coalition of support,” and “why would I want to throw any of my coalition members under the bus?”

Shoemyer said he hopes the lawsuit will point out that in such a close election, the ballot language may have skewed voters to vote in favor of Amendment 1. He said the amendment didn't give or take any rights from Missouri producers, but rather gave rights to a Chinese corporation, in this case Shuanghui International Holdings Limited, which purchased American food company Smithfield Foods in 2013.

“You either agree with family farmers, or big ag,” Shoemyer said in an interview with Agri-Pulse. “To me, it's a pretty simple decision.”

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