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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

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Court of Appeals Rules on Initiative 300

Federal appeals court upholds ruling that Initiative 300, Nebraska’s prohibition on corporate farming, is unconstitutional

by John Crabtree, Center for Rural Affairs,

In 1982, by a vote of the people, the constitution of Nebraska was amended to include a provision which prohibited corporate farming in Nebraska – Initiative 300.

Twenty-four years later, on December 13, 2006, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion affirming U.S. District Judge Laurie Smith-Camp’s December 2005 decision that declared Initiative 300 in violation of the United States Constitution.

Judge Smith-Camp never held a trial to discern the evidence in the case. She ruled that Initiative 300 is unconstitutional on its face, essentially because it is inconvenient for out-of-state interests to comply with the provision in Initiative 300 that requires that a family member live on or operate the farm or ranch to qualify as an allowed family farm or ranch corporation. The three-judge panel of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals concurred.

“This is a flawed ruling. This is what happens when the courts make crucial decisions without holding a trial and hearing the facts of a case,” said Chuck Hassebrook, Executive Director of the Center for Rural Affairs. “Initiative 300 should have its day in court,” argued Hassebrook.

The circuit court’s decision compounded another problem with the district court’s ruling: it’s wrong on the facts. Initiative 300 does not distinguish between in-state and out-of-state corporations. For example, a Montana rancher who works everyday on his Montana ranch could qualify his operation as a family ranch corporation just as easily as a Sandhills rancher, and having done so could place cattle in Nebraska custom feedlots just like Nebraska ranchers.

Moreover, the legal precedent established by this ruling is broad and dangerously expansive. It could undermine a wide range of state laws and dramatically diminish the power of states to control corporate power and excess.

In his appeal to the 8th Circuit Court, Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning argued, “Initiative 300, Nebraska’s ban on corporate farming, does not violate the commerce clause, nor does it discriminate against out-of-state individuals or corporations.”

He was right – and since he will decide whether to continue the battle to protect Initiative 300 and the right of Nebraskans to choose family farms and ranches over corporate farms – we urge him to reaffirm his commitment to Initiative 300 and what the law has meant to family farmers, ranchers, rural communities, and the economic and social well-being throughout Nebraska for the last 24 years. We urge him to continue the fight.

Agree? Disagree? Post a comment here or contact John Crabtree,

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.


  • At 11:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I hope Nebraska's Attorney General fights for your corporate farming law. Iowa's AG tucked tail and ran from Smithfield and traded our corporate farming law down the river. Missouri's legislature did the same thing with theirs.

  • At 12:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    John, I agree, Nebraska needs to keep fighting for its corporate farming law. Other states that are still clinging to theirs will be even more under attack if Nebraska loses. Fighting corporate farming is still too important to give in, just because a few judges don't like the law. Keep fighting. Whiting, Iowa

  • At 12:35 AM, Blogger Center for Rural Affairs said…

    An update on Initiative 300 - Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning has decided to appeal the Circuit Court's decision. His office will petition the Supreme Court for a hearing of the case.

  • At 8:30 AM, Anonymous Rural McCook said…

    Thank you CFRA for continuing to advocate this issue. - Rural McCook, NE.

  • At 10:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I don't trust John Bruning, I think he is appealing to the Supreme Court because he knows that they won't take the case and he can say he did something without having to do something. And he hasn't done very well so far with his legal defense.

  • At 1:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Whether or not Bruning made the decision sincerely, ulitmately, the Supreme Court petition is probably necessary. I'm not sure the 8th circuit court of appeals holds much hope for I-300. Perhaps the Supreme Court will force the district court to actually hear the facts of the case.

  • At 11:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    does anyone have a plan if we lose at the supreme court?

  • At 5:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Federal Farm Policy has done far more harm to small farms than I-300 could or would ever overcome.

    LLCs worked around I-300 anyhow and a purely competetive activity (ie:farming) can not efficiently compete by making Nebraska an island. Commodity outputs still have to be sold into a national/world market.

    In my opinion, I-300 failed. Look at the facts. It is best to concentrate energy into changing Federal policy rather than trying to restore a failed/flawed program.

  • At 7:54 AM, Anonymous Clenbuterol said…

    At different times there is a need in different rules.

  • At 11:05 AM, Anonymous muebles barcelona said…

    Quite effective info, thanks so much for the post.


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