But some lawmakers said they fear the proposed constitutional right to farm could extend to domestic animal breeders and challenge regulations on puppy mills.
The House gave preliminary approval Wednesday to a measure that would forever guarantee the right to farm and ranch using modern practices and technology.
If approved by voters, the measure would amend the state Constitution to protect farmers and ranchers. Sponsor of the measure Rep. Bill Reiboldt, R-Neosho, said agriculture is very important to the state’s economy.
“This is just to have a broad piece of legislation that protects what you and what I have done traditionally all of our lives in agriculture as well as the more modern practices,” Reiboldt said.
Reiboldt said the main goal of the proposal is to stop outside groups from interfering and trying to restrict agricultural practices.
“There are groups, out of state groups, which are trying to come into Missouri and take these rights from us,” Reiboldt said.
Democratic lawmakers from the Boone County area supported an amendment to exclude pets and exotic animals from the protections for livestock and ranching. Rep. John Wright, D-Boone County, sponsored the amendment.
“These days, there are all kinds of animals that are raised,” Wright said. “If you look hard enough, you can find lions for sale... Some of these alternative categories of raising animals may call for some degree of oversight.”
Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, spoke in favor of the amendment that would have excluded breeders of pets from the definition of farmers and ranchers. He said that without the amendment, the issue of puppy mills would again trouble lawmakers.
“This amendment is the only thing between us and a return to puppy land,” Kelly said. “If dogs are included in this the way they are today, get ready for another barrage of puppy land.”
Kelly referred to the intense debate over regulation of puppy mills in 2011 after voters approved Proposition B, which restricted dog breeding in the state.
Wright's amendment failed to pass.
Reiboldt said he did not agree the proposed constitutional amendment would cause problems.
“I do not see that coming back at all,” Reiboldt said. “We’ve got good relationships with breeders.”
Reiboldt said the proposal would not affect any local laws or regulations on agriculture since it applies only to state laws.
The bill passed by a voice vote. The joint resolution will go to the Senate if given final approval by the House. If passed by both chambers, it would appear on the ballot for voters to consider.