Blog for Rural America

The Center for Rural Affairs, a private, non-profit organization, is working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities. Permission to reprint items from this web log is hereby granted, on the condition that clear credit is given to the original source of the material. If the blog provides information for a story, please let us know by sending an email to johnc@cfra.org.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Federal Judge Strikes Down Nebraska's Anti-corporate Farming Law

Initiative 300, Nebraska’s ban on corporate farming, struck down in federal court.

In 1982, by a vote of the people, the constitution of Nebraska was amended to include a provision that prohibited corporate farming.

...Article XII of the Constitution of the State of Nebraska…Sec. 8. (1) No corporation or syndicate shall acquire, or otherwise obtain an interest, whether legal, beneficial, or otherwise, in any title to real estate used for farming or ranching in this state, or engage in farming or ranching…

The constitutional amendment goes on to generally prohibit corporations and certain other business entities from owning farming or engaging in farming or ranching, with crucial exceptions for family farm and ranch corporations.

But on December 15th, a federal judge declared that Initiative 300 interferes with interstate commerce and violates the federal Americans with Disabilities Act and enjoined the state of Nebraska from enforcing the law.

Attorney General Jon Bruning promised to appeal the decision. Initiative 300 will remain in effect while the case is appealed.

Others are now debating and will continue to debate the merits of the decision in this case and that debate may play out in an appeal to the 8th Federal Circuit Court of Appeals. But, at a time like this, it is also important to remember why the Center for Rural Affairs and our allies have fought so hard and so long to preserve Initiative 300.

Dr. Rick Welsh and Dr. Thomas Lyson found in a 2002 report that anti-corporate farming laws are beneficial to the economies and people of rural communities when compared to states without such laws. Rural communities in states with anti-corporate farm laws have lower poverty levels, lower unemployment and a higher percentage of farms reporting cash gains.

Since 1982 Nebraska has increased its share of the nation’s hog operations, lost fewer hog operations than most pork producing states and increased its share of cattle on feed. Since 1997 Nebraska has maintained its number of feedlots with cattle on feed and ranks at the top of the nation in the number of smaller commercial feedlots. Actual numbers of Nebraska cattle and hogs rose (30% and 12 % respectively) between 1990 and 2000, and Nebraska is currently the #3 corn producer, the #5 soybean producer, the #3 livestock producer, the largest red meat producer and the largest livestock slaughterer.

In short, Initiative 300 has been part of an agricultural climate in Nebraska that has helped the state retain more family farmers and ranchers than many other states while also retaining agricultural production. And Initiative 300 has helped rural Nebraska communities weather many economic challenges, by considering the good of the many over the wealth of a few.

post a question or comment here or contact John Crabtree, johnc@cfra.org

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.

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