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NFU: 8th Circuit undercuts states rights; delivers big blow to family agriculture
Guest Opinion
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals delivered a blow to states rights and family farming Dec. 12, when it ruled in St. Louis that Nebraska’s ban on corporate farming, known as Initiative 300 (I-300), is unconstitutional.

I-300 bans non-family farm corporate farming, but also serves as an effective ban on packer feeding of livestock.

“Given the massive acceleration of meat packer concentration in agricultural markets in recent years, the failure of federal Justice Department anti-trust enforcement and the failure of USDA’s Packers and Stockyards enforcement of anti-trust, the last thing rural America needs is for the courts to take away states’ ability to deal with the problems of agriculture market concentration and non-competitive markets,” NFU President Tom Buis said.

Farmers Union has been a longtime leader and supporter of this amendment - Nebraska Farmers Union spearheaded a 1982 citizens’ petition drive to add the ban to the state constitution. The amendment prohibits non-family farm corporations from owning farmland or engaging in agricultural activity, with a number of exceptions.

In December 2005, the U.S. District Court for Nebraska struck down I-300 on the grounds that it violates the U.S. Constitution by discriminating against out-of-state corporations. Nebraska’s appeal, filed with the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, seeks to reverse the December 2005 decision because I-300 promotes family farming and keeps rural communities viable.

“It is very disappointing that two federal court decisions have been made based on ‘facts’ that may or may not be facts,” Nebraska Farmers Union President John Hansen said. “The people who voted to put I-300 into our state Constitution have not yet had their day in court. There has been no trial to determine the validity of the claimed facts, all of which are in dispute in this case. The 8th Circuit Court denied us, yet again, our right to a trial.”

The Farmers Union leaders said that the implications of this case are far reaching, as the decision uses the dormant commerce clause to strike down the state’s right to set its own standards. If this case stands, it will weaken the ability of all states to determine their own standards for the conduct of commerce.

12/20/2006