by Senator Mike Parson
The Farming Rights Amendment has been moved up and certified for the August 2014 ballot rather than the November ballot. It will be listed on the ballot as Amendment #1. As it had been expected to appear on the November ballot, this action by the governor shortens the amount of time we have to continue our educational campaign on this important issue.
As I have traveled around the state speaking to various groups and organizations about Amendment #1, the enthusiasm is contagious, but we still have a lot of work to do to see it become a reality. Just as we saw with Proposition B, the ballot initiative that threatened to shut down the canine industry in Missouri, Amendment #1 will no doubt pass by large margins in almost all of Missouri’s 114 counties. Our greatest challenges lie in the urban counties such as Jackson and St. Louis as well as the city of St. Louis. The large population numbers of these areas have the numbers to wipe out gains we make in the dozens of rural counties.
There was a time in our state’s history when farmers and ranchers would not have needed protection in the State Constitution to simply go out and do their jobs every day. However, times have changed in recent years. As more generations are removed from the farm, fewer people realize the importance of agriculture and the role it plays in our economy and culture. Seeing this shift, outside interests have been very aggressive in their attempts to alter, and even end, segments of the agriculture industry as well as the way of life behind it.
The attacks on agriculture haven’t been limited just from outside special interests. They have also come from our own federal government in the form of increased regulations. Recently we have had to push back on attempts to limit what chores farm kids can perform as well as new regulations on dust particulates from farm equipment. This doesn’t even take into account the political policies that have both direct and indirect effects on commodity prices.
It had been expected the Farming Rights Amendment would be on the November 2014 General Election ballot. Since it is important for enthusiasm for an issue or candidate to peak on the day of the election, the campaign had been geared toward this date. Now the timeline has changed considerably. Instead of the big push coming in September and October, it will now need to take place in June and July. Venues such as the Missouri State Fair where we could energize supporters have been taken out of play because the election will take place prior to even the opening day.
As I mentioned in Part One several months ago, we face a few defining moments in our lives and careers. The election in August will be one of them. This is probably the only chance we will have in our lifetime to put these important words into the Missouri Constitution:
“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 farming and ranching practices shall be forever guaranteed in this state, subject to duly authorized powers, if any, conferred by article VI of the Constitution of Missouri.”
Future generations will look back on this time and say that we took advantage of a tremendous opportunity or that we missed the chance of a lifetime. Let’s do everything we can to make certain we take advantage of this opportunity. Amendment #1 is our opportunity of a lifetime.