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Covering state lawmakers, bills, and policy emerging from Jefferson City.

Koster Touts Amendment 1, Opponents Question Who Will Protect Family Farmers

Scott Harvey

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster says Amendment 1 will protect the state’s farmers from conflicts that have arisen over the last decade. KSMU’s Scott Harvey has more on the AG’s stop in southwest Missouri.

Speaking in Springfield Wednesday, Koster said if voters approve the ballot question on August 5, it will provide security for Missouri’s farmers in pursuing modern agricultural practices. He cited threats to the “right to farm” in the form eminent domain and attempts to reduce or eliminate concentrated animal feeding operations. Koster also noted the passage of Proposition B in 2010 to correct lapses in Missouri’s dog breeding industry, noting a provision that limited any state dog breeding facility to a maximum of 50 dogs. He said the provision “highlights the danger that these types of initiatives present.”

“If an out of state interest can limit dog breeders to 50 dogs, why not limit a hog farmer to 50 hogs, or a cattle ranger to 50 cattle, or an accounting firm to 50 accountants? I’d ask you all to put yourselves in the shoes of an agricultural business owner in our state, and consider how you’d feel if voters placed a limit on how successful you could be,” Koster said.

The Democratic Attorney General, who has announced plans to run for Missouri governor in 2014, was joined Wednesday by representatives from the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association, Missouri Corn Growers Association, and Missouri Farm Bureau, among others.

Sheila Nichols with Missouri’s Food for America says Koster’s support of Amendment 1 is a “political move,” and fears for the rights of the state’s family farmers and rural sections of the state.

“I’m really disappointed that our attorney general, who was put in place to protect us, is taking this position,” Nichols said. “Who will fight for the family famers in the courts if this passes? And going against the largest corporations in the world like Monsanto and Cargill, who will fight for our rural communities?”

Nichols adds that the amendment is vaguely worded, and will result in years of litigation.

Koster said Wednesday he disagrees with opponents who say the amendment is “nothing more than platitude” and others who say it is overbroad and prevents all regulation of agriculture.

“Passage of this amendment will continue to allow agriculture to be subjected to reasonable regulation in the State of Missouri. But future regulation must serve an important state interest and may not be arbitrary or prejudicial in nature,” said Koster.

Opponents have argued that Amendment 1 would give more protection to foreign corporations and take away from small farmers.  

Sarah Nichols, also with Missouri’s Food for America, says Koster’s remarks on making sure the state’s agriculture system remains competitive in no way put family farmers’ minds at ease.  

“He addressed the Cattlemen’s Association, he addressed the Soybean Growers, he addressed the Corn Growers Association, all of which are the largest agricultural corporate entities in this state. The family farmers who are most at risk to be overtaken by those corporations that will take away their lifestyle and take away their livelihoods, he [Koster] did not address them,” Nichols said.

Koster’s remarks in Springfield Wednesday came inside Crescent Feed Mill, where about half a dozen protestors gathered outside. The Attorney General was scheduled to make remarks in Webb City at David Collard Farms later on Wednesday.

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