Oppose "Right to Farm" Legislation

In response to growing public concern about factory farming, some states have banned certain industrial farming practices that have been shown to cause animal suffering, threaten public health, pollute water, reduce air quality and negatively impact property values. Rather than reform destructive practices, corporate agribusiness is responding by pushing "Right to Farm" (RTF) laws.

Right to Farm laws seek to preserve the status quo by greatly limiting the ability of states to regulate conditions on farms, including the cruel confinement of farm animals and other environmental and public health threats. Ultimately, RTF laws protect the interests of industrial agriculture over those of small farmers, local communities, animals and the environment.

What Is the Purpose of "Right to Farm" Legislation?

So-called "Right to Farm" statutes first cropped up in the 1970s when urban centers began encroaching on rural areas and lawmakers became concerned about conflicts over the use of agricultural land. These laws vary in their scope, but generally aim to protect farmers from property disputes and litigation.

Examples of these laws include:
  • Prohibiting local governments from enacting more stringent agricultural regulations than the minimums required by state law, regardless of local demand.
  • Restricting communities from suing, even if the agricultural operation has expanded significantly or changed practices that impact water quality, air quality or quality of life for residents.
  • Restricting communities from suing if a farm operation engages in "generally accepted agricultural management practices" that do not violate any laws, but may create documented public health or environmental threats.
  • Ordering plaintiffs to pay the legal fees of the agricultural entity being sued (the defendant) if they (the plaintiffs) lose the case to discourage communities from challenging agribusiness.

Recent "Right to Farm" Legislation

Right to Farm laws have been enacted in some form in every state. But in recent years—partially as a tactical shift by agribusiness away from proposing unpopular ag-gag laws—more overreaching versions of these laws are being introduced. The most troubling pattern emerging in RTF laws is the passage of state-level constitutional amendments. When a state enshrines the "Right to Farm" in its constitution, it elevates farming to the same untouchable status as other constitutional rights, including the right to religious freedom and the right to vote. No other for-profit industry is afforded such protections.
 
Indiana — Introduced RTF legislation [PDF] to amend the Indiana State Constitution in 2015. Rejected by the Legislature.
 
Kansas — Updated its RTF legislation in 2013, specifically protecting farming operations that expand their acreage or increase the size of their livestock operations.
 
Missouri — Narrowly passed a ballot measure in 2014 adding a RTF provision (Art. I Sec. 35) to the Missouri State Constitution.
 
Nebraska — Introduced RTF legislation [PDF] to amend the Nebraska State Constitution in 2016. Rejected by the Legislature.
 
North Dakota — Passed a ballot measure in 2012 adding a RTF provision (Art. XI. Sec. 29) [PDF] to the North Dakota State Constitution. 
 
Oklahoma — Introduced a ballot measure in 2016 to add a RTF provision [PDF] to the Oklahoma State Constitution. Rejected by voters.
 
West Virginia — Introduced RTF legislation to amend the West Virginia Constitution in 2016. Rejected by the Legislature.

Join the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade to stay up to date on ways you can help! You can also contact your governor and state legislators and contact them to ask that they vote against these harmful laws that protect the cruel practices of industrial farming.