Correction: State Senator Rob Schaaf (R – St. Joseph) supports Amendment One, and says he will be voting for its passage in August. The quote that aired during the 6:00 newscast was not a quote from Senator Schaaf. We have invited the Senator to appear as a guest on “This Week,” to make his views clear. An effort to schedule the appearance is underway.
On August 5, the polls will open for several issues across Mid-Missouri, including Constitutional Amendment 1, the so-called right to farm amendment.
It reads, "Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to ensure that the right of Missouri citizens to engage in agricultural production and ranching practices shall not be infringed?" You'll be asked to vote yes or no on the amendment.
The issue has ignited heated debate and rhetoric from both supporters and opponents.
ABC 17 contacted a few opponents, but schedules conflicted and some phone calls were not returned.
One state senator who agreed to speak with ABC 17 on the issue is a supporter. Senator Brian Munzlinger is not only a state senator, but also a farmer.
ABC 17's Joey Parker asked why passing the amendment is so important.
Munzlinger: When we look at agriculture, it's the most important industry we have in the state of Missouri and the idea of getting this to pass is to protect that industry that we have here that is so important.
Parker: What are people so afraid of? Some of the opponents of Amendment 1 say it's just a way for companies to come in Missouri and hide behind the constitution and do whatever they want.
Munzlinger: That is absolutely not true because what this does, it puts a protection in for agriculture in our constitution but it does not do away with any of our state statutes that we have, and we actually have a limitation on how much foreign land can be owned in Missouri, in statute, and this doesn't change that. Actually, it won't change any of our statutes and other statutes that we have. Actually article 6 in our constitution that gives the local government their power, and we're not changing article 6 so those local governments will still have their power to set ordinances and we'll have laws to protect against animal abuse and protect the environment and other things. It's just a spin the other side is putting on and of course these radical activist groups do tend to get up with a bunch of emotion with a spin on it that gets some people to question why we need it.
Parker: When you think about it, the foreign companies coming in and doing things and the big companies, you know when I was on a farm as a child, chickens had the chicken house, and the hen house and they had comfortable conditions, and now you see them being crammed into shoe box cages. Is that where we are going?
Munzlinger: You know, we as farmers have to decide what is best for our animals. If they're happy, they're going to lay a lot more eggs. If they're happy the pigs and the sows are going to have a lot more pigs. If they're healthy that's a good sign and as farmers in agriculture we do things for a reason. It's our livelihood, it's our livelihood when people are 4 or 5 generations removed from agriculture, they don't understand why we're doing things the way we are today. We do things because we want to take care of our operations, whether it's a livestock or grain crop operation. I myself want to pass mine on to my family.
Parker: And being a farmer you know plenty of farmers, whether they're your constituents or just farmers in the state. Have you met a farmer that's against amendment 1 yet?
Munzlinger: I haven't. I had originally but once I've been able to talk to him I've been able to straighten out some of the misconceptions the other side is spewing.
P: And what happens if it doesn't pass? What will change?
Munzlinger: My fear is that HSUS, the Humane Society of the United States, and other radical activist groups will target Missouri if this doesn't pass. I will say right now, who do we want running our farms? Our farms or HSUS? When I look back at what I want to do, I want to protect my industry because it's in my life blood. I'm a farmer. Also a legislator and a chairman of the ag committee and I hold that very, very high.
Parker: When it does pass, if it does pass, there are arguments that legal feels will go through the roof, a lot of litigation. Do you see that happening?
Munzlinger: Not real fast. When I look at North Dakota, which actually pass virtually the same amendment into their constitution, no I don't look for a large increase. Some of these things will have to be settled out in court, like any law that we pass in Missouri.