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Right to farm is fundamental

The right to farm is fundamental to society and the economy.

Published on November 21, 2013 8:33AM

As long as there’s a need for food and fiber, there must be a fundamental right to farm, ranch and raise timber.

We do not say that because we follow agriculture. We say that because we all eat, live in houses or apartments made of lumber and wear clothing made of fiber produced by farmers and ranchers. As long as that’s the case, we will continue to need “right to farm” laws.

Without modern farms and working forests we would all be living in caves and scratching out a livelihood in the dust. Agriculture, more than any other profession, has raised the standard of living and improved every society on the planet.

It is of bedrock importance to our society and economy that farmers, ranchers and foresters be “allowed” to feed us, clothe us and house us. That is why “right to farm” laws have been adopted in all 50 states.

It is not a textbook theory that farmers and foresters must be able to work all hours of the day and night using unique equipment and inputs to produce the vegetables, livestock, fiber and lumber that makes our economy go. Without those practices, food, fiber and lumber would be unimaginably expensive — if they were available at all.

To take away that right, as a group in rural Lane County, Ore., hopes to do, would be a disservice to all who are involved in agriculture — and those who depend on its crops and products for nutrition and shelter. If they are successful in arguing that no right to farm exists in Oregon, they will open the door to every neighbor who wants to put the farmer across the road out of business.

When people buy property next to a farm or a working forest, they must assume that farming and forestry practices will take place. They must assume that generally accepted means of controlling insects and pests will be used and that modern means of cultivating crops will be used. Barring any direct injury that can be proved, neighbors need to accept the fact that they live next to a farm. The farms and forests were there first, and it is no secret what those activities are.

It should also be said that reasonable people should be able to get along. Farmers do not want to alienate their neighbors. Most will go out of their way to accommodate realistic concerns that come up. They cannot, however, stop farming or managing the forest. The family depends on it, the banker depends on it, and society depends on it.

An Oregon appeals court has rejected the challenge of the state’s “right to farm” law. The plaintiffs had sought a declaratory judgment that the law is unconstitutional. The court tossed out the case, affirming a lower court’s ruling.

Whether the group will continue its challenge of the law, we do not know. But we do know that the Oregon law is based on the same bedrock common sense that every state in the country has acknowledged and adopted. It says that no one should be able to move next door to a farm or working forest and shut it down.


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