Opponents of Missouri's Right to Farm constitutional amendment were weighing a recount request Wednesday, a day after the measure appeared to pass by the slimmest of margins.
The unofficial tally from Tuesday's election showed that with nearly 1 million votes cast, Amendment 1 carried by just over 2,500 votes, a margin of 0.2 percent. The measure was favored in most rural counties, but opposition in the St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield and Columbia areas was nearly enough to offset it.
Missouri law allows for a recount if the victory margin is 0.5 percent or less, but the losing side must request it. The request can't be made until the vote is certified, which could take up to three weeks, Missouri Secretary of State spokesman Kevin Flannery said Wednesday.
Opponents were meeting Wednesday to discuss the possibility of requesting a recount, said Joe Maxwell, a former Democratic lieutenant governor and a member of the opposition group Missouri's Food for America.
"We're encouraged by the vote," said Maxwell, a farmer and an executive with the Humane Society of the United States, which opposed the amendment. "A few weeks ago, a poll showed a 49-point gap. Obviously you want to carry the day but at the same time we're very encouraged by that momentum we were able to build among our coalition partners."
The group Missouri Farmers Care was a leading supporter of the amendment. Executive Director Dan Kleinsorge expects a recount. He blamed the Humane Society for an onslaught of TV ads that made the vote close.
"I think a big part of the HSUS strategy was to confuse voters and get a 'no' vote that way," Kleinsorge said. "The amendment is pretty straightforward and it's a very positive thing."
The amendment declares farming a right at the state level. It is part of an effort to fortify the ag industry against animal-welfare activists and opponents of genetically modified crops, who fear the amendment will be used by corporate farms to escape unwanted regulations such as pollution control.
North Dakota is the only other state to add a right to farm to its constitution, though a similar measure passed as a law in Indiana.
Missouri Farm Bureau president Blake Hurst said the apparent narrow victory was evidence that opponents "failed to convince people that the thousands of Missouri family farms supporting this amendment were tools of foreign or corporate interests."
Opponent Rhonda Perry, a Howard County livestock and grain farmer and program director for the Missouri Rural Crisis Center, said in a statement that no one is questioning the right to farm.
"This is an unnecessary corporate takeover of our state constitution that forever guarantees the rights of corporations to write their own rules and bypass democracy and local control," Perry said.
Some voters simply weren't sure who to believe.
"It's been a confusing issue because of the TV ads," said Jim Beussink, 59, a union carpenter from Maryland Heights. Ultimately, he supported the measure because it was his impression that most farmers backed it.
Tim Milner, 58, of O'Fallon, opposed the measure out of fear that corporate farms would become more predominant.
"All of a sudden you'd have big corporate companies taking over your property, land that generations of families have farmed," Milner said.