JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (Jan. 24, 2023) – A bill introduced in the Missouri Senate would ban state cooperation with the enforcement of federal regulations that interfere with farming and ranching in the state.

Sen. Jill Carter (R) introduced Senate Bill 84 (SB84) on Jan. 4. Titled the Freedom to Farm Act, the legislation would limit government regulation of farming and ranching in Missouri. The bill includes provisions addressing federal regulations.

“The right of farmers and ranchers to engage in farming and ranching practices for sale or personal consumption shall be guaranteed free from government intervention and such practices occurring within this state shall not be infringed upon by the federal government under the regulation of interstate commerce.”

SB84 goes on to prohibit state and local government agencies from enforcing any provision of law, order, ordinance, rule, regulation, policy, or other similar measures that restrict farming or ranching practices. Any state or local agency could be held civilly liable in state court for violating this provision.

In practice, the proposed law would create a process for farmers and ranchers in Missouri to challenge the enforcement of federal regulations on farming. Any farmer or rancher who believed a state or local agency helped enforce a federal rule or regulation that infringed on their right to farm could sue that state agency in state court. If the court finds in their favor, it would effectively ban any future state or local enforcement of that particular federal regulation.

At the least, the passage of SB84 would create a chilling effect on state and local cooperation with the enforcement of federal regulations on farming and ranching. In the best-case scenario, it would stop cooperation with the enforcement of some specific federal regulations.


Based on James Madison’s advice for states and individuals in Federalist #46, a “refusal to cooperate with officers of the Union” provides an extremely effective method to render federal laws, effectively unenforceable because most enforcement actions rely on help, support and leadership from the states. This legislation could effectively end the enforcement of some federal rules and regulations that infringe on the right to farm.

Fox News senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano agreed this type of approach would be extremely effective. In a televised discussion on federal gun laws, he noted that a single state refusing to cooperate with enforcement would make federal gun laws “nearly impossible” to enforce.

The federal government relies heavily on state cooperation to implement and enforce almost all of its laws, regulations and acts. By simply withdrawing this necessary cooperation, states can nullify in effect many federal actions. As noted by the National Governor’s Association during the partial government shutdown of 2013, “states are partners with the federal government on most federal programs.”


The provisions prohibiting the state from enforcing or implementing certain federal acts rest on a well-established legal principle known as the anti-commandeering doctrine. Simply put, the federal government cannot force states to help implement or enforce any federal act or program – whether constitutional or not. The anti-commandeering doctrine is based primarily on five Supreme Court cases dating back to 1842. Printz v. U.S. serves as the cornerstone.

“We held in New York that Congress cannot compel the States to enact or enforce a federal regulatory program. Today we hold that Congress cannot circumvent that prohibition by conscripting the States’ officers directly. The Federal Government may neither issue directives requiring the States to address particular problems, nor command the States’ officers, or those of their political subdivisions, to administer or enforce a federal regulatory program. It matters not whether policy making is involved, and no case by case weighing of the burdens or benefits is necessary; such commands are fundamentally incompatible with our constitutional system of dual sovereignty.”

No determination of constitutionality is necessary to invoke the anti-commandeering doctrine. State and local governments can refuse to enforce federal laws or implement federal programs whether they are constitutional or not.


SB84 was referred to the Senate Agriculture, Food Production and Outdoor Resources Committee where it must get a hearing and pass by a majority vote before moving forward in the legislative process.

Mike Maharrey

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