Blake Hurst: Protect Missouri farmers by passing Amendment 1

06/27/2014 4:02 PM

07/12/2014 6:34 PM

The island of Hawaii recently banned the use of biotechnology.

Well, not all genetically modified organisms. It’s still OK to grow papaya, which won’t survive without a genetically engineered resistance to a nasty virus.

Consistency seems to be a trait resistant to genetic engineering. The neighboring island of Kauai is considering a ban on the 20th century, including not just biotechnology, but also most of the modern tools in a farmer’s toolbox in the unending fight against pests and weeds. Peasants with hoes, that’s the future!

In California, more than 200,000 acres will lie idle this summer because of an extended drought and because irrigation water is being diverted for the 3-inch long Delta smelt fish. Farmers paying attention have noticed that the water from neighboring reservoirs supplying San Francisco is not being used to protect the bait fish of the hour.

Up north, Jackson County, Ore., has also outlawed genetically modified organisms. Farmers who have spent tens of thousands of dollars establishing perennial crops will have to plow under their fields in the next 12 months.

The backers of the ordinance profess to care about family farms but haven’t volunteered to help those farmers who will lose several years of income and work. Because much of the parent stock for sugar beet seed is raised in the county, it will be a scramble to find seed to plant next year’s crop of sugar beets.

Most of the farmers around the country who grow sugar beets are with family farms. But to the voters of Jackson County, Ore., some family farms are better than others.

In Missouri, we have a chance on Aug. 5 to protect all of our family farms by passing Amendment 1. If voters approve, Missouri will be protecting farms that raise food organically and growers that provide food for local farmers markets.

We’ll also be protecting families that raise crops for commodity markets using the latest technology. Consumers who prefer organic or non-genetically modified organisms deserve that choice. But single parents with three children and tight food budgets need choices as well.

Some will discount what happened in California, Hawaii and Oregon, pointing out that Missouri is different. What if I told you that just four short years ago, voters in red state Missouri placed limits on the number of breeding animals farmers could own?

Amendment B, passed by voters in 2010, forbid dog breeders from having more than 50 female animals. There was and is no animal husbandry reason for that limit, no environmental or animal welfare reason, and the limit was so small that it guaranteed no family could make a living. Family farmers don’t expect to get rich or even have above-average incomes, but they shouldn’t have to take a vow of poverty.

Missouri is a leading agricultural state, home to producers of many different crops and a leading livestock producer. Our colleges and universities are home to the best agricultural scientists in the world.

One in six Missourians works in the food industry. If we recognize what we have, if we protect it, if we nurture the farm families who work so hard to provide food, fuel and fiber for Missouri and the world, agriculture will continue to be our leading source of jobs, economic growth and good food.

That’s why we need to pass Amendment 1 on Aug. 5.

Blake Hurst of Tarkio, Mo., is president of the Missouri Farm Bureau, a farmer and greenhouse grower. To reach him, send email to oped@kcstar.com.

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