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Koster wades into “Right to Farm” debate


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Less than one week after a Republican lawmaker backed out of a scheduled debate on Missouri’s so-called Right to Farm amendment, Democrat Attorney General Chris Koster announced his support for the measure.

Chris Koster
Chris Koster

Koster announced at the Missouri Farm Bureau headquarters that he supported Amendment 1, which will be appearing on the August 5 ballot. Supporters say the language protects Missouri’s largest industry – agriculture – by protecting it against future burdensome regulations. The ballot language 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?

Koster announced his support at a political event today. A spokesperson for Missourians for Koster released a brief statement to The Missouri Times.

“The Right to Farm Amendment will ensure that agricultural production in Missouri is always economically competitive with other states across the country. This amendment ensures Missouri farming methods are not subject to extreme regulations that damage our state’s number one industry.”

Opponents of the language say it will actually give a blank check to pollute to small and large corporate farms alike and allow even the most minimal of regulations to be challenged in court.

Some groups on the left —the very base he’ll need to tap in a few years — immediately slammed Koster, who plans to run for Governor in 2016, for supporting Amendment 1. Former state lawmaker, Wes Shoemyer, is leading the charge against the proposed constitutional change. In a press release from Missouri’s Food for America, Shoemyer blasted Koster for inconsistency.

“All you have to do is look at his track record; he switched parties from Republican to Democrat following huge gains by Democrats in 2006, when filing legal action against the State of California, Koster claimed he was protecting Missouri from California’s rules, but now he wants to hand our farms over to China’s rule?” Shoemyer said in the release.

The proposed change to the constitution was to be debated by Rep. Bill Reiboldt, a supporter, and former Lt. Gov. Joe Maxwell, an opponent. Before the scheduled debate could take place, Reiboldt cancelled, saying that Missouri Farmers Care — an organization strongly backing the measure — asked him to back out.

“Missouri Farmers Care asked me not to be on the same program with Joe Maxwell because of his employment with HSUS (Humane Society of the United States),”Reiboldt, who chairs the Missouri House Committee on Agriculture Policy, said.

HSUS is one of the groups opposing Amendment 1 because they say it will create backdoor allowing operations like puppy mills to function with impunity. But poor relationships between environmental and animal rights groups and Republicans make convincing conservative lawmakers that Amendment 1 is bad policy an uphill climb.