by John Crabtree, Center for Rural Affairs, firstname.lastname@example.org
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, email@example.com
Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.