WEST VIRGINIA TO CONSIDER RIGHT TO FARM AMENDMENT
On February 25th, Senate Joint Resolution 14 was introduced in the West Virginia Senate Agriculture and Rural Development Committee. This measure would submit to voters of the state the opportunity to amend the West Virginia State Constitution by adding a section which would forever guarantee the right to use modern farming and ranching techniques. The resolution's lead sponsor is Robert Karnes (R-Upshur), the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee Chair - a position he was appointed to earlier this year. Karnes has introduced several pieces of legislation in 2016 relating to farming, ranching, and hunting. SJR 14's language states:
"The right of farmers and ranchers to engage in modern farming and ranching practices shall be forever guaranteed in this state. No laws shall be enacted which abridges the right of farmers and ranchers to employ agriculture technology, modern livestock production and ranching practices."
West Virginia is the second state so far this year to consider a potential Right to Farm Amendment. In January, Nebraska Senator John Kuehn introduced LR378CA - constitutional amendment to guarantee the right to engage in certain farming and ranching practices - in the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature. Oklahoma will be voting on its own Right to Farm Amendment in November. Agriculture is a key component of the West Virginia economy and lifestyle. The state is comprised of over 3.7 million acres of farmland, with the average farm size being 157 acres. West Virginia ranks 10th in apple production, 14th in turkey production, and 15th in peach production. Its other top commodities include broilers (young chickens), beef cattle, and eggs. According to the United States Department of Agriculture's 2012 Ag Census, West Virginia has the highest concentration of family-owned farms in the country, at 98 percent. The feeling among many is that Right to Farm Amendments are becoming increasingly necessary in order to protect family farms (as well as all farms) from out-of-state legislative efforts from special interest groups. We will continue to follow news of this resolution as it progresses in the West Virginia legislature.