If I asked you to think of an agricultural-law issue that’s been making news in states across the country recently, you’d probably throw up your hands in the air. Maybe you’d shrug and suggest something to do with genetically modified food (GMO) labeling. And if I told you, as I am, that the answer to my question was Right-to-Farm laws—which NPR labeled “a divisive national issue” earlier this year—I suspect my first task would be to explain just what the heck the term means.
Right-to-Farm laws are on the books in all fifty states. They are enshrined into some state constitutions, including in Missouri, where the state constitution now guarantees, in perpetuity, “the right of farmers and ranchers to engage in farming and ranching practices” in the state.
Right-to-Farm laws like Missouri’s generally serve two key purposes. First, they protect farm owners from state and local regulations that might restrict farming. For example, Louisiana recently issued a statewide ban on all private burns in the state, a measure adopted as a result of dry conditions. But the state’s farmers are exempt from the ban. That’s because Louisiana’s Right to Farm Law defines burning as a generally accepted agricultural practice.