Missouri voters approve 'right to farm' law by slim margin

Dive Brief:

  • Missouri voters appear to have approved an amendment to the state constitution that would guarantee a "right to farm."
  • The controversial measure passed by a mere 2,528 votes - less than a third of 1% of voters. 
  • The vote tally is preliminary only as of press time. Missouri's Secretary of State must sign off on the results for the tally to be made official. But given the narrow margin of victory for the measure, a recount is almost inevitable.

Dive Insight:

The "right to farm" amendment makes it next-to-impossible to create new regulations involving agriculture in the state. Neither legislators nor voters can impose new laws to protect animals, human health, the environment, etc. if such a law involves agriculture. Supporters of the amendment think agriculture needs such protection to save it from animal activists and health advocates.

But the companies that buy and process agricultural goods for American consumers are already taking actions to address the concerns consumers have about such issues -- particularly the concerns about the treatment of animals. Tyson has taken steps to ban the use of gestation crates in its supply chain, for example. So has Cargill. So has Food Lion. Similar actions are being taken by corporations to address other concerns Americans have about the food supply, notably the use of antibiotics.

So the big winner under Missouri's "right to farm" law might be the WH Group, the Chinese-owned company which took control of Smithfield Foods last year, giving it ownership of at least 63 hog farms in Missouri.

The WH Group, which has a massive and insatiable market for pork to feed in China, doesn't need to respond to the concerns of American consumers. And now American consumers can't do much at all to push WH Group or others who produce food in Missouri for export to change.

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Filed Under: Food Safety Sustainability
Top image credit: Tom Curtis