I was not surprised to read that Missouri’s Attorney General, Chris Koster, has come out in support of Amendment 1, the so-called Right to Farm Amendment. He used Missouri tax payer money to sue the state of California on behalf of a few large egg producers in the state. It’s pretty obvious that Mr. Koster is regretting that whole “I’m now a Democrat” thing, especially among the rural, large agribusiness types.
It must also sadden Mr. Koster to realize that the egg lawsuit isn’t doing all that well. California and other intervenor defendants moved to dismiss the lawsuit under the reasonable claim that Missouri can’t sue because it doesn’t have standing. States can sue, but only if a significant percentage of the population of the state is impacted by the lawsuit. I don’t work in the chicken or egg industry, and I have a strong suspicion neither does a significant number of other Missourians.
I strongly doubt the lawsuit will survive, and I believe Koster knows this, which is why he claims the costs will be less than $10,000. But it doesn’t matter in the end, because it makes Koster look real good to large agribusiness interests in the state. Large agribusiness interests that are known to donate big bucks to election campaigns.
Koster’s support for Amendment 1 is more of the same. You’d think a state Attorney General would know the costly, negative impacts from such a vaguely worded piece of legislation. Legal analysis has demonstrated that the Right to Farm Amendment is an awful piece of drivel that will clutter up an already cluttered up state Constitution and costs millions to defend in court. At best. At worst it can mire critical decisions in uncertainty and contentiousness.
But there you go, Koster supports Amendment 1, and he supports his ill-considered lawsuit against California. So does a new libertarian legal entity in Missouri called the Missouri Liberty Project. They filed an Amicus Curiae brief in opposition to California’s motion to dismiss. The group was founded by Joshua Hawley, and if you don’t recognize that name, he’s one of the lawyers who represented Hobby Lobby in its successful drive to get the Supreme Court to recognize that corporations can go to church on Sunday.
Josh Hawley’s name might also be familiar to those interested in the Amendment 1 vote, because Hawley wrote a piece in favor of the amendment, just before Nixon decided to put it to the vote in August instead of November. The piece contains the usual references to farming and how it hasn’t changed all that much since Jefferson’s time (just ignore those CAFOs with rivers of pink manure, and genetically altered corn implanted with some kind of bug DNA). According to him, all this innocent little Amendment will do is ensure that farmers can continue doing what farmers have been doing since the dawn of time.
But then he slips a little and writes:
Unfortunately, Missouri agriculture is under attack from government bureaucrats and outside interest groups that want to tie down farmers with burdensome regulations.
But, but…don’t all industries have to conform to one regulation or another? After all, we don’t allow oil companies to drill anywhere they want, nor can coal-fired utilities dump their waste into waters, putting wildlife, livestock, and people at risk—not without suffering consequences. Car makers have to ensure air bags inflate when they’re supposed to, planes really do need to stay in the air, and most of us just hate it when banks—or cable companies—rip us off.
Come to think of it, we’re not all that happy when we find out that rare beef hamburger we just ate comes with a generous dose of E.coli, or that the cow that supplies the milk the little ones drink can glow in the dark. And yeah, I don’t really want to eat the meat of a animal that’s so sick, some idiot in a fork lift has to lift her up to get her ready to be killed. It’s that whole, not wanting to die because I lost the luck of the draw in the food safety game, thing.
Then there’s that whole issue of clean water. I’ve seen some creeks and streams in Missouri that are so clear, you can see the fins on the tiny fish that inhabit them. I’d really hate to see these streams turned pink and murky, and all those cute little fish killed off before they have a chance to develop into nice big trout.
Though I live in the city, I’m also sympathetic to the small, organic farmer, fighting to keep pesticide off his or her field, and the country home dweller who once lived next to a corn field, only to wake up to 5,000 hogs the next day. Right next door.
And yeah, I like puppies. I like dogs, cats, horses, elephants, bats, bees, deer, and whole host of critters. I hate to think of any of them suffering or dying unnecessarily because of greed, stupidity, and cruelty. True, some animals we make into pets, some we eat, and some we leave alone, but that doesn’t mean any of them deserve abuse. I’d like to think we humans are better than that.
Regulations may sound scary, but they ensure we all have at least a fighting chance for a decent life. And a fighting chance to be decent human beings.
Amendment 1 isn’t about outside interest groups—it’s about people who live here, in Missouri. It’s about our interests, our concerns, and our responsibilities. Right to Farm sounds innocent, but it’s a backdoor method to undermine every county, city, and state-based regulation that impacts on anything even remotely related to agriculture. And it’s a way of making it almost impossible to adapt our laws to new information, new concerns, and new discoveries. It permanently enshrines the worst of behavior into the State Constitution for one single industry.
I’m thankful that Josh Hawley at least had the decency to come out and say that Amendment 1 is about undermining state and other regulations. That’s more than you’ll get from Chris Koster.
After reading all this, do you still think it’s all about the farmers? How’s this then: Go move a mile down river from a CAFO with 5,000 hogs and then tell me you’re going to vote for Amendment 1. Just be careful not to step in the pink stuff on your way to the poll.