Nebraska’s Ban on Corporate Farming May be History (Three Cheers)

(1A) Initiative 300 generally bans corporations and certain other business entities from owning farmland or engaging in agricultural activity in Nebraska, although there are a number of exceptions geared toward family-based organizations.
It was added to the Nebraska Constitution through a petition drive and vote of the people.
Since receiving 57 percent of the vote in 1982, Initiative 300 has survived several state and federal court challenges, a petition drive to repeal it and attempts by state lawmakers to circumvent it.
The ban was promoted as a way to protect family farms in Nebraska from large corporations.
But Camp ruled that the effort to protect Nebraska farmers violated the U.S. Constitution’s commerce clause because it discriminated against out-of-state interests.
“There is considerable evidence to support the premise that Initiative 300 was conceived and born in a protectionist fervor,” the judge said.
Camp acknowledged that the ban might promote legitimate state interests, such as conservation of natural resources and rural economic development. But she said the state had not shown that the ban was the only (p. 2A) way to reach those goals.
In the lawsuit, Jones said the result of the ban has been a loss of income because he cannot contract with out-of-state corporations for raising and feeding livestock. The ban also reduces the value of his land and his stock in the family farm corporation by barring potential purchasers.
Other plaintiffs said the ban has prevented them from transferring their farm and ranchland as they wished and has interfered with their ability to compete in a national market.
In addition, the judge agreed with two of the plaintiffs who said the ban violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, because it says the person holding a majority of a farm must supply a majority of the day-to-day labor on the farm.
One was Shad Dahlgren of Lincoln, who was paralyzed as a teenager and uses a wheelchair. The other is Todd Ehler, an Elkhorn man who also is disabled.
Both said they are limited in their ability to own farms, since they cannot provide the day-to-day labor required under Initiative 300.

Governments do not know, and usually do not seek, the most efficient market structure. When they try to impose one, as in the Nebraska ban on corporate farming, their actions almost always end up reducing efficiency, and increasing prices for consumers.
For the full article, see:
Stoddard, Martha and Bill Hord. “Ruling Hits Corporate Fram Ban: Initiative 300 Unconstitutional, Judge Says.” Omaha World-Herald (Sunrise Edition, Friday, December 16, 2005): 1A & 2A.
(The online version is, I believe, the version printed in the evening edition of Thurs., Dec. 15, 2005, which I believe is the same, except for the headline.)

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