Sen. John Kuehn of Heartwell sponsors LR 378 CA, a constitutional “right to farm” amendment.
“This is a deeply personal policy issue for me, both as a fourth generation livestock producer and as a large-animal veterinarian,” Kuehn tells the Agriculture Committee during a hearing on his resolution.
Kuehn says the right to farm and ranch must be protected against activist groups bent on swaying the public against traditional farming and livestock production.
“Agriculture is the undisputed foundation of Nebraska. The economic engine of our state, Nebraska agriculture represents one in every four jobs and over $25 billion in economic impact,” according to Kuehn.
Kuehn says few consumers have any direct ties to agriculture any more, making them susceptible to well-funded campaigns sponsored by groups such as the Human Society of the United States, which he says appeal to emotions, not facts.
The immediate past president of the Nebraska Cattlemen, Dave McCracken, tells committee members extreme environmental and animal rights groups pose a real threat to agriculture.
“Every day the livelihoods of Nebraska farmers and ranchers are threatened by misinformation circulated by extremist groups with agendas far beyond improving the environment or improving animal welfare,” according to McCracken. “This makes agriculture unique. Everyone works hard, but not everyone is a target.”
Not all farmers appearing before the committee support the measure.
Plymouth farmer Vern Jentzen tells committee members he opposes it.
“Given the ramifications that this proposal could have for the agricultural community, I am concerned that being a short proposal the question of interpretation of wording and intention is problematic for me and, I believe, will be problematic for the citizens of Nebraska in the future if added to the state constitution,” according to Jentzen.
Melissa Money-Becher of Lincoln contends the resolution is too broad and could shelter animal abusers, calling it not the right to farm, but rather the right to harm.
“This bill will allow anybody under that ag umbrella to harm an animal and be free of regulation of the legislature,” Money-Becher tells the committee. “So, in essence, it ties the legislature’s hands if they want to prevent any abusive farming practice or technique from being implemented; they can’t.”
Kuehn bases his proposal on a constitutional amendment being placed on the ballot in Oklahoma. Other states are considering similar measures. Both Missouri and North Dakota have “right to farm” amendments in their constitutions.
The Agriculture Committee will decide whether to pass the proposal on to the full legislature for debate. If it passes the Unicameral, it goes to a vote of the people.