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.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The Corporate Sow Ain't Won Yet

There have been many so called “experts” who have recently opined that the days of anti-corporate farming laws are numbers. This opinion is a product of an over simplified analysis of the fact that a federal judge struck down South Dakota’s anti-corporate farming law, commonly known as Amendment E, and that Nebraska is currently appealing a federal judge’s order striking down Initiative 300, Nebraska’s constitutional prohibition of corporate farming.

But anti-corporate farming laws, ordinances and related policies do not seem to be waning, numerically at least. In Pennsylvania, 12 townships and five counties have passed anti-corporate farming legislation. In North Dakota, three counties have recently adopted rigorous guidelines for industrial livestock facilities in response to efforts to site large operations there.

And while states such as Iowa and Illinois have eliminated the rights of counties to utilize zoning to exercise some control over the type of livestock production in their jurisdiction, in other states, like Nebraska and North Dakota zoning is alive and well, and on the increase in North Dakota.

In Missouri, local battles over industrial livestock operations continue to rage. Fourteen counties have passed ordinances restricting the expansion of industrial operations and nine more counties are exploring similar ordinances.

In Macon County, Missouri, county commissioners approved a health ordinance in late December that severely limits the siting of additional industrial operations in the county. After passage of the ordinance, Macon County Commissioner Craig Jones said, “One thing that scares citizens to death is to be told that you’re going to be living 3,000 feet from on of these operations. I’ve lived here fifty years, and I don’t want to be run out by one of them.”

The response of certain agricultural interests was swift and severe, including suggestions that counties that restrict livestock facilities might be denied investments in new ethanol and biodiesel plants, and pressure on the Missouri Legislature to take away counties’ rights to zone livestock confinements.

“Farmers are not effete, tailpipe sniffers,” said Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon, supporter of local ordinance effort. “When they complain, it’s real.”

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