Right-to-Farm laws have apparently been in effect in every state since the 1980′s. Originally they were designed to protect established farming operations from nuisance lawsuits, such as when a farm finds itself newly surrounded by a housing development whose residents may object to odors, etc. Legally, there are three kinds of nuisance. One forbids individuals from using their property in a way that causes harm to others. A private nuisance refers to an activity that interferes with an individual’s reasonable use or enjoyment of his or her property. And a public nuisance is an activity that threatens the public health, safety or welfare, or damages community resources, such as public roads, parks and water supplies.
Goaded by ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, which works to persuade legislative bodies to enact laws that benefit their corporate members, states are attempting to enshrine a right to farm in their various constitutions. If they succeed, any future legislation or ballot initiative seeking to regulate agriculture would be quashed. The ballot language usually reads “Shall the state constitution be amended to ensure that the right of citizens to engage in agricultural production and ranching practices shall not be infringed.” These amendments, however, seek to go beyond Ag-gag laws and provide corporations protection against outside interest groups who wish to protect either the animals or the environment from their practices. Right to farm language, encoded into state constitutions, would simply act as a barrier against any restrictions on Big-Ag.
Specifically, these right to farm amendments to constitutions, which are far more difficult to change than state laws, would essentially shield large industrial farms from any environmental and food safety regulations. They would also stifle lawsuits arising from individuals who become sick from the vast amounts of pollution these industrial operations produce. All the state right to farm laws were created before the advent of CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) and genetically modified organisms. And pesticide use has increased greatly overall, a direct result of GMOs.
Hawaii’s legislative body recently sought to amend their state’s right to farm law by preventing local governments from enacting laws restricting “the right of farmers and ranchers to use agricultural technology and other practices not prohibited by federal or state law.” Hawaii and Kauai have passed laws restricting genetically modified crops, which would then put them in conflict with their constitution. At least for now, the effort to change Hawaii’s constitution has failed. And in Oregon, voters in both Jackson and Josephine counties have banned the planting of GMOs, which would then be overridden by a constitutional amendment. Similarly, California passed a law in 2008 which required that pregnant pigs, laying hens and calves raised for veal would be kept in enclosures large enough for them to turn around and fully extend their limbs. This law, too, could be overturned if ALEC gets its way.
The “sell” to voters and legislative bodies is that these amendments are all about the small family farmer trying to protect his or her way of life. Considering that the vast majority of farming operations in this country are controlled by industrial producers, it’s obvious where the motive and money are coming from. Many states have already enacted Ag-gag laws that criminalize activities by private individuals to expose the harmful practices of the industry (pollution and mistreatment of animals.) To further “protect” the right of industrial agriculture to use whatever technologies they wish comes at the expense of communities and consumers. We can’t allow Big Ag to tighten their grip on our food supply.
Recipe of the Week
On hot summer days, I occasionally will make a Nicoise Salad. It’s got a good enough amount of protein to satisfy the appetite and is overall a very refreshing meal.
To serve two.
1 large tomato, cut into eighths
a handful of fresh green beans, washed and trimmed
1 green bell pepper, sliced thinly
6 anchovy fillets
a handful of whatever olives you prefer
2 hard-boiled eggs, shelled and sliced
a few slices of sweet onion
half a head of red-leaf lettuce for the base
1 can tuna
Combine all ingredients, toss with a sprinkle of salt, olive oil and red wine vinegar.