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August 07, 2014 12:39 PM “Show Me” Some Puppy Mills!

By Ed Kilgore

I have to admit that when I mentioned Missouri voters’ narrow approval of a “right-to-farm” constitutional amendment yesterday, I had only the vaguest idea of what it was about, beyond a general suspicion that bad things were afoot when agribusiness lobbyists said it was needed to avoid “over-regulation.”

But now Charlie Pierce has a clearer and certainly more pungent explanation:

[T]he politics behind this thing were flatly bizarre. Some people were driven to vote for it because of their opposition to our old friend, Agenda 21, the secret UN plan to steal all our golfs. Some of them are concerned about the jackboots of the EPA. And there’s no question that the new amendment is a positive boon to agribusiness, and Monsanto, and other notable friends of the earth. But the truly weird element of the debate was how central to the movement behind the amendment was the desire of some people to reopen the state’s notorious puppy mills.
[Next graph a quote from Governing’s Chris Kardish]
In Missouri’s case, farmers or ranchers who have been in operation for more than a year have protections from such complaints and the ability to “reasonably” expand without facing lawsuits. But supporters of Amendment 1 argue that’s not enough. They point to a 2010 ballot measure that sought to rein in so-called “puppy mills,” in part by placing a 50-dog cap on breeders. Some ranchers actually work in the breeding business, and others worried that the law’s aims could one day extend to people who raise livestock. That law was largely overturned later by the legislature, but advocates for Amendment 1 point to other issues as well, from bans on using genetically modified seeds in parts of Oregon to attempts to create buffers around hog farms to protect conservation areas in Missouri.
In November of 2010, the voters in Missouri approved a law regulating these facilities. (The Missouri legislature overturned it because it is the Missouri legislature.) There was the predictable howling — I see what I did there — from the people running the puppy mills. (Puppy mills have political activists. Who knew?) A city mouse-country mouse spat erupted and did not end until last night, when the voters rose up against the tyranny of, among other groups, the Humane Society and passed an amendment that will clearly allow the puppy mills to reopen. You can get a political movement behind anything these days, I guess, because freedom.

From Kardish’s piece we also learn that “right to farm” initiatives began as a project of—you guessed it!—the American Legislative Exchange Council back in the day. Yes, ALEC’s noxious products continue to circulate around state governments like a nasty and almost incurable virus.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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