Here is the chronological order of the conversation between Jason Smith, Republican for US Congress and current State Rep and Speaker Pro Tem in the Missouri House, and myself regarding HJR 11 and 7, the proposed Missouri Constitutional Amendment to “protect” agriculture.
This is transparency, folks. This issue will affect every single person who eats in this State, and it is entirely too important for both urban and rural Citizens to understand what is happening with this proposal.
I received a return phone call from Chief of Staff Ryan Hart after nearly two weeks awaiting a response from Smith’s office on concerns with this legislation. He sent me an attachment of the perfected bill on March 13th:
Be it resolved by the House of Representatives, the Senate concurring therein:
That at the next general election to be held in the state of Missouri, on Tuesday next following the first Monday in November, 2014, or at a special election to be called by the governor for that purpose, there is hereby submitted to the qualified voters of this state, for adoption or rejection, the following amendment to article I of the Constitution of the state of Missouri:
Section A. Article I, Constitution of Missouri, is amended by adding one new section, to be known as section 35, to read as follows:
Section 35. That agriculture which provides food, energy, health benefits, and security is the foundation and stabilizing force of Missouri’s economy. To protect this vital sector of Missouri’s economy, the right of farmers and ranchers to engage in modern farming and ranching practices shall be forever guaranteed in this state. No state law shall be enacted which abridges the right of farmers and ranchers to employ agricultural technology and modern and traditional livestock production and ranching practices, unless enacted by the General Assembly.
Section B. Pursuant to Chapter 116, RSMo, and other applicable constitutional provisions and laws of this state allowing the General Assembly to adopt ballot language for the submission of a joint resolution to the voters of this state, the official ballot title of the amendment proposed in Section A shall be as follows:
“Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to ensure:
• That the right of Missouri citizens to employ modern farming and ranching practices and equipment shall not be infringed”.
and I responded on March 14th:
Sorry it took so long for me to get back to you. Kidding season has a way of making things crazy around here!
I understand that the desire is to make things better and to ensure that agriculture remains viable in Missouri. To truly ensure viability, we must stop the continued contraction of agricultural market access, and the ability of farmers to profit from their labor must be secured. There are several studies on consolidation that have been done Hendricks and Heffernan from Missouri U. It truly crosses all sectors of agriculture, both crops and animal agriculture. As it stands, the language in HJR 7 and 11 wouldn’t address that at all, and, unfortunately, would lead to further the spread of patented life forms, both animal and plant that will do even more damage to independent agriculture.
Below is a proposal that would truly enhance the viability of Missouri agriculture and increase the economic freedom in rural areas and therefore help local economies to prosper and not ship their money straight out of the community to China via Walmart. Please let me know your thoughts on this. As I said, I have spoken with several property rights, agriculture, and economic freedom advocates, and a few legislators about this and rec’d very positive feedback.
Section 35. That agriculture which provides food, energy, health benefits, and security is the foundation and stabilizing force of Missouri’s economy. To protect this vital sector of Missouri’s economy, the right of farmers and ranchers to engage in direct trade with consumers [modern farming and ranching practices] shall be forever guaranteed in this state. No law shall be enacted which abridges the right of farmers and ranchers to employ agricultural [technology and modern livestock production and ranching]practices that secure independent family farm’s ability to save seed, preserve livestock bloodlines, or impede their access to market.
Section B. Pursuant to Chapter 116, RSMo, and other applicable constitutional provisions and laws of this state allowing the General Assembly to adopt ballot language for the 3 submission of a joint resolution to the voters of this state, the official ballot title of the amendment proposed in Section A shall be as follows: “Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to ensure:
• That the right of Missouri citizens to employ modern farming and ranching practices and equipment that insure the continuance of diversified small farms shall not be infringed”.
Then, on March 25th, Jason Smith responded to my March 14th email:
Dear Ms. Hannes,
Thank you for your email expressing your concern and taking the time to break down the bill, it is great to hear from such an informed citizen. HJR’s 11 and 7 are meant to protect agriculture in all forms, whether it is a small organic family farm or a large operation. The main goal of these resolutions is to make sure that our state’s largely diversified agriculture industry is protected from out-of-state interest groups that attempt to cause nothing but burden and harm.
The resolutions have also been amended to give more power to the county government. I am a firm believer in smaller government and have always found that the best solutions to a problem come from someone close to the problem. The following amendment was offered by Representative Reiboldt during the perfection of the bill. The amendment changed lines four through seven to read as follows.
“No state law shall
5 be enacted which abridges the right of farmers and ranchers to employ agricultural
6 technology and modern and traditional livestock production and ranching practices, unless
7 enacted by the General Assembly.”
These changes in this amendment take the power for the state government to place restrictions on agriculture and give that authority to the counties. This allows farmers to be able to talk to their county commissioners instead of 163 representatives from all corners of the state of Missouri.
I would also like to point out that in line six; the resolutions provide protection for “modern and traditional” practices. This will protect your right, as a small family farmer, to always be able to use the practices that you prefer on your own operation.
I hope that this answers all of your questions and addresses your concerns. If you have any more questions about HJR’s 11 and 7, or Representative Reibolt’s amendment, please feel free to email them to me. I always enjoy hearing from and helping my constituents.
Speaker Pro Tem
And, since I was busy and honestly rather angered by the response, I waited to respond until I wasn’t caught up in the moment as it were and responded this morning, March 28th….
I was aware of the amendment and the perfected language, and to be completely honest with you, it cannot possibly do what you claim it will do. I’ll explain why I see it as I do.
First of all, a Constitutional Amendment should be an inviolable right. To claim that no “state law” shall be enacted which infringes upon this “right” “unless” it is enacted by the General Assembly, seems an insult to the intelligence of the citizens of the state. ALL state law is enacted by the General Assembly.
Also, the County Commissioners don’t actually have the authority to enact “law” within the county. They can do resolutions, and approve of initiatives and go against initiatives, approve or disapprove planning and zoning issues, but they are largely involved with managing the infrastructure and financing of the county’s needs and overseeing the administration of the county. But they cannot make “law” with criminal repercussions for the violation of any law they pass.
Should this pass as a Constitutional amendment, the County that would constrain an aspect addressed in this Amendment would be in violation of the Missouri Constitution, and they would therefore be sued by an aggrieved party for violating the “rights” of a party interested in asserting their right to use “agricultural technology” within the confines of a County that was opposed to a particular technology.
If you want to help farmers and ranchers to actually profit from their labor and remain viable, the way to truly help them is to cut the red tape between farmers and their consumers. There are plenty of studies that illustrate how destructive vertical integration and corporate farms are to both communities and independent agriculture.
If the verbiage you currently have as perfected language is what you are comfortable with and believe will meet your desired goals, then I must go completely against it and activate people against the language and against any progression of this proposal. The very last thing that we, as citizens of Missouri need, is to bless the biotech industries and corporate factory farms with the right to further consolidate.
I’d hoped that there was a chance to work with you to change the language from protecting the biotech industry which is deeply destructive to both consumers and farmers, but that doesn’t appear to be possible.