On Tuesday, August 4th, half a million Missourians agreed with MRCC—that the “Right to Farm” constitutional amendment is a horrible idea that supports corporate interests at the expense of family farms, the environment and de-mocracy. This was an incredible campaign, in which tens of thousands of Missourians engaged to challenge the corpo-rate, industrial vision of the future of agriculture in Missouri (against big odds and stacks of corporate money).
The vote count was 499,963 to 497,588—a margin of 2,375 votes—so, we lost by less than ¼ of 1 percent. But, in some very important ways, this is a major success story. We clearly demonstrated our capacity to get out our “family farms vs. corpo-rate control” message statewide and have a huge impact on a statewide election.
A Quick History: In 2012, corporate agri-business and their front groups went to North Dakota and passed a pro-corporate constitutional amendment that protects “agricultural technology” and “modern livestock production” with little opposition.
And in 2013, they came to the Missouri legislature with the expectation to put the same language in OUR constitution. But MRCC engaged thousands of Missourians in the legislative process to oppose this blatantly pro-corporate language—and we got the “agricultural technology” and “modern livestock production” language taken out and a specific sentence added to protect local control. A substantial victory, but the bill passed and was subsequently put on the August 2014 ballot.
What We Were Up Against: Our opposition had access to unlimited amounts of money. The lead group supporting Amendment 1 was Missouri Farmers Care, a front group for corporate agri-business whose members include Mon-santo and Cargill, the Missouri Pork Association, the Mis-souri Cattlemen’s Association and Lathrop & Gage (a law firm for Chinese-owned Smithfield Foods). Numerous poli-ticians, including two statewide office holders (Attorney General Chris Koster and Secretary of State Jason Kander) campaigned in support of the so-called Right to Farm. These factors plus a poll showing that 69% of Missourians would vote “Yes” and only 13% would vote “No” demon-strated the need for an honest grassroots campaign.
Our Campaign: MRCC & campaign partners, Missouri Food for America and Missouri Farmers Union, organized a strategic and intensive statewide, grassroots campaign.
We highlighted the issues of democracy (corporations taking over our state constitution and bypassing our demo-cratic process); industrial corporate-control of food vs. in-dependent family farm agriculture; and foreign corpora-tions owning Missouri farmland (e.g. Smithfield Foods owned by a multi-national Chinese corporation).
In just 6 weeks, MRCC communicated our message di-rectly to over 25,000 Missourians and engaged our long-time allies in the food, environment and labor communities to help us engage another 60,000. (A special thank you to MO Jobs with Justice and Food & Water Watch for demon-strating your support for MRCC and Missouri’s family farms early and often in this campaign.)
We generated significant media coverage including over 110 news stories, LTEs, Op-Eds, blogs, radio and TV. And at least 15 Missouri newspapers came out against Amend-ment 1 including, the Joplin Globe, Springfield News-Leader, West Plains Daily Quill, Jefferson City News Trib-une and STL Post Dispatch.
In a six week period of time we closed a 49 point defi-cit. And this was not a rural vs. urban issue—56% of Mis-sourians who voted “No” were from rural counties.
With well over $1.5 million spent on the “vote yes” campaign, this amazingly close vote was an incredible feat by MRCC and our allies. We have demonstrated that it is possible to lead effective statewide farm and food campaigns that enable us to build a powerful force for our future work to promote family farms and to hold corporations and government accountable to all Mis-sourians.