2012 Election: Ag Ballot Issues Include GMOs, Farmland, More

November 5, 2012 04:36 AM

A variety of issues on U.S. ballots Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012 will have implications for people employed in agriculture. Here’s a quick look at some of those initiatives by category.

Genetically modified food

In California, approval of Proposition 37 would require manufacturers to label food made using "genetically modified (GM), biotech or genetically engineered (GE) crops," NBC News reported. Supporters say that some animal studies indicate genetic modification of food can contribute to health problems for consumers and that more safety testing should be done. Meanwhile, Hanford (Calif.) Sentinel columnist Don Curlee–an opponent of the initiative–says farmers and producers would be "negatively affected, as new labels will be required for practically everything they supply." 

Companies such as General Mills and Coca-Cola collectively have spent nearly $10 million in an effort to defeat the measure, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Farming rights

In North Dakota, approval of Constitutional Measure No. 3 would amend the state’s constitution to include this text: "The right of farmers and ranchers to engage in modern farming and ranching practices shall be forever guaranteed in this state. No law shall be enacted which abridges the right of farmers and ranchers to employ agricultural technology, modern livestock production and ranching practices."  

Farm Bureau’s president in North Dakota says the measure would keep "outside interests from interrupting farming and ranching operations by imposing costly, unnecessary rules," the Minot Daily News reported. 

Farmland preservation

In Maine, approval of Question 3 would allow the state to issue no more than $5 million in bonds to help raise money for the preservation of farmland, acquisition of land for conservation and other uses. Supporters say investing in land creates opportunities that put money back into the local economy, the Bangor Daily News reported. 

Animal cruelty

Voters in North Dakota also will decide whether to adopt Measure No. 5, which would criminalize malicious and intentional harm to dogs, cats and horses. While ballot language specifically states that the measure "would not apply to production agriculture," one opponent–North Dakota farmer Val Wagner–says its primary backer has a history of "wreaking havoc with animal rights and agriculture."

The Humane Society of the United States is among the organizations backing the measure, WDAZ-TV 8 reported.

Medical marijuana

In Arkansas, approval of Issue No. 5 would set up "a system for the cultivation, acquisition and distribution of marijuana for qualifying patients," information published by the University of Arkansas Extension says.

Farm bill

In Iowa, Democrat Christie Vilsack–wife of U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack–is stressing farm bill inaction as she tries to defeat Rep. Steve King, a Republican. That’s according to Reuters via The Huffington Post. 

That’s also true in central Illinois, where Democrat Cheri Bustos is facing Republican Bobby Schilling, CentralIllinoisProud.com reports.

Other races in which the farm bill is expected to play a role include those in Wisconsin, Montana and Nevada, Farm Futures reports.

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