An Investigation into the Potential Impact of Carve-Outs for Ranching and Farming Protections Through State Constitutional Amendments
87 Pages Posted: 10 Oct 2017
Date Written: October 9, 2017
In recent years, a number of states have sought to amend their constitutions to provide special protections against legislative enactments which may impinge on “ranching and farming” activities. In fact, North Dakota and Missouri have already amended their state constitutions to guarantee the rights of ranchers and farmers to engage in their current practices as well as in unforeseeable technically enhanced practices with unknown ramifications. In Indiana, the Senate considered amending its state constitution to protect the “right to farm and ranch” in 2015, but declined to do so. More recently in 2016, Oklahoma State Senator Scott Biggs used similar language that provided special protections for these carved-out activities in a proposed constitutional amendment that was placed on the November ballot. The voters defeated the proposal. Nebraska expects to introduce a similar measure in 2017, after Senator John Kuehn, the measure’s sponsor, moved to delay the measure during the final weeks of the 2016 legislative session because some legislators, including one who removed her name as co-sponsor before the debate began, felt that there was too little information about how these constitutional amendments work and whether they are needed in the first place.
Nonetheless, there’s no reason to think that other states, particularly states like North Carolina, which harbors the largest hog slaughtering plant in the world, won’t soon be seeking to adopt these same types of amendments to their state constitutions.
Several questions come to mind when scrutinizing these proposed constitutional amendments. Who qualifies as a “rancher” or “farmer”? Why grant special status to ranching and farming as opposed to any other business or industry? How are these proposed constitutional amendments different from the “Right to Farm” statutes that all fifty states have on the books that protect farmers and ranchers from nuisance lawsuits? What probable effects will propositions like these have on the interests of parties other than those of ranchers and farmers? What are the vices and virtues of the potential impacts of “Right to Farm” amendments upon anticipated regulatory issues that may arise, as follows: animal cruelty; environmental damage; human nutrition and food safety; and business interests.
This Note concludes that the “ranchers and farmers” benefited by these propositions are not individual, family, or organic farmers, but animal agricultural giants who operate intensive industrial factory farms and slaughterhouses. State laws already provide many agribusiness protections, and agribusiness activities have significant and detrimental effects on animal treatment; the planet’s health; human nutrition and food safety; and alternative food production and associated businesses. This Note investigates: Is it reasonable to create additional rights for ranchers and farmers through state constitutional amendments?
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