Monday, August 4, 2014

Musings: Farming Rights

In perusing the Sunday New York Times, I noticed that Missouri voters are being asked to decide whether to add a “right to farm” amendment to their state's Constitution.

Proponents apparently believe it will stave off laws that dictate how livestock and crops are raised in the state, which has some 100,000 farms. They seem to be unaware of the fight under way in Hawaii, where anti-GMO activists are challenging seed companies and farmers, despite the “right to farm” statute in state law.

165-4 Right to farm. No court, official, public servant, or public employee shall declare any farming operation a nuisance for any reason if the farming operation has been conducted in a manner consistent with generally accepted agricultural and management practices. There shall be a rebuttable presumption that a farming operation does not constitute a nuisance.

The proposed Missouri amendment reads:

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.

North Dakota is the only other state to adopt a similar Constitutional amendment, which passed with 67 percent of the vote in 2012.

As the Times reports, it's sparked an emotional debate in Missouri, home of Monsanto, where it's pitting people — including farmers — against one another and attracting big money on both sides. One of the primary opponents is the Humane Society of the United States, which previously supported strict regulations on the state's horrid puppy mills. The amendment is partly in response to what some farmers consider “meddling by outsiders,” though it's hard to see how puppy mills could be considered “farming.”

The Times quoted Blake Hurst, the president of the Missouri Farm Bureau:

“When you look across the country, you see a lot of ballot initiatives that are making decisions about how farmers can farm,” Mr. Hurst said. The proposed amendment “doesn’t change regulations we have now, and it can’t possibly change federal law. We’re trying to stop ballot initiatives that limit farmers’ ability to use technology.”

As I read the article, and reflected on how communities like Kauai have been torn apart by the issue, I was reminded again that we need to be having a thoughtful, reasoned, national debate on food in this country, one that addresses humane treatment of livestock and environmental and human health, while also considering consumer demand for cheap, abundant food and the realities of farming today.

But we're not having that discussion. Instead, we're embroiled in emotional, often fear-based conflicts that at best take a piece meal approach to a complex issue while ensuring that lawyers have plenty of work in the years ahead.

Meanwhile, the Small Business Regulatory Review Board has completed its required review of the proposed rules for Ordinance 960 — Kauai's pesticide/GMO regulatory bill, which is on hold pending a court review. The Board's comments were succinct, and primarily addressed the bill's impact on small farmers, as opposed to the chem/seed companies:

Pesticide buffer zones will make tracks (sic) of land uneconomical for growing purposes;

Establishment of an emergency/medical hotline will be costly for small farmers to maintain;

The civil fines proposed for the failure to file annual mandated reports are high and will be costly for small farmers, should they miss a deadline; and

The ordinance will curtail the economic viability and future growth of the agricultural industry as well as create business and economic uncertainty that will lead to less land investment and planning for future use.

The county has scheduled a public hearing on the rules for Aug. 26. According to Beth Tokioka in the mayor's office:

Once the public hearing is complete and provided that there are no substantial changes to the rules, the OED Director [George Costa] shall fully consider all written and oral submissions respecting the proposed rules. The Director may make his decision at the public hearing or announce then the date when he intends to make his decision.  If the Rules are approved by the Director, the Rules will be submitted to the Mayor for his approval as required by HRS 91-3.


Anonymous said...

It seems that the SBRRB has said it all. This Board was created to stop government from slaughtering small businesses. Their comments are right on.
It is unfathomable that our Council couldn't have sat down with Big Ag and mediated the community concerns. Having Gary or Tim discuss any issues with Big Ag is akin to having Gary recently giving advice on the new super high Property Tax dilemma. He don't pay no taxes and passes a law to raise taxes on others and now wants to be the hero in fixing the situation. Holy Smokes Bogart, light me another reefer, I must be in another ozone. Tax advice from a tax cheat and new tax laws from the man who scores a Jackpot by suing the taxpayer and then raises taxes to cover County costs..Save me Jesus! Of course, Jay, Joann and especially Mason were complicit in Tim's payoff, higher taxes and they all voted against Ag.

Anonymous said...

Give me a break. Dow, Syngenta, Pioneer, BASF...were not willing to be transparent. That is their MO. Doesn't matter what community they are in. Demonize certain council members but by no means demonize the corporate thugs for what they are.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for another thoughtful piece on the future of ag in this country. Kauai is a microcosm of this anti-anything-except-organic-gardening movement.

Anonymous said...

Good article, Miss Joan.
Missouri really can't tell Kauai how to farm. I've been to Missouri, the Farm Dwellings over there are small houses with barns and these tall round Ag buildings, I think they are called silos are something. Missouri farms are also hundreds to thousands of acres in size.
On Kauai we have little 5 to 10 acre farms that have big 4,000 sq ft houses with granite and marble build outs and really nicely designed Ag buildings that even have Bynum style rice cookers and kitchens. The Kauai farms have a value of 1 million to 20 million. The price farm values alone show that Kauai knows more about farming than Missouri. Kauai farms must make a lot of money to pay for these multi-million dollar improvements.
And how can Missouri put a simple 4 line initiative Cat/Dog question on the ballot? Kauai has shown that a complicated initiative of 18 pages is better. Kauai Ag, the wealthiest and smartest farmers in the world.

Anonymous said...

Joan - HSUS opposes the right to farm not because of puppy mills, but because of livestock issues. They are a vegan organization. Their conferences only offer vegan lunches. So their role in opposing the right to farm has nothing to do with puppies but everything to do with the humane treatment of chickens, pigs, and cows .... before we kill and eat them.

Anonymous said...

Love it 7:47 !!!

Anonymous said...

Article today: "Scientists say a man-made "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico is as big as the state of Connecticut.

The zone, which at about 5,000 square miles (13,000 sq km) is the second largest in the world but still smaller than in previous years, is so named because it contains no oxygen, or too little, at the Gulf floor to support bottom-dwelling fish and shrimp.

The primary cause of the annual phenomenon is excess nutrient runoff from farms along the Mississippi River, which empties into the Gulf, said Gene Turner, a researcher at Louisiana State University's Coastal Ecology Institute.

The nutrients feed algae growth, which consumes oxygen when it works its way to the Gulf bottom, he said."

Anonymous said...

August 5, 2014 at 7:47 AM or the pool, jacuzzi and ag building with sauna. Them Kauai farmers sure know how to live.

Anonymous said...

They need the money to pay for Tim's lawsuit.