Public Opinion (Chambersburg, Pa.)
November 5, 2005


By Jim Hook

Belfast Township in Fulton County has won the first round in a legal
fight to regulate corporate farming.

John R. Walker, president judge of the Franklin/Fulton County Court of
Common Pleas, recently upheld a township's authority to prohibit
corporate involvement in farming.

Agribusiness interests had sought a summary judgment and asked the
court to rule that the township's "anti-corporate farming" law and
other ordinances were "void as a matter of law."

They argued that Pennsylvania Corporations Code preempted the
ordinances, and that the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, and
provisions in the Pennsylvania Constitution prohibited the township
from adopting the ordinances.

Walker rejected each argument and ruled that the "plaintiffs have
failed to prove that they are entitled to judgment as a matter of

Belfast Township supervisors in July 2000 adopted the ordinance, which

** Corporations cannot engage in farming, either by owning farmland or
by contracting for a farmer's production.

** Family corporations and family partnerships are exempt.

During the mid-1990s, residents had become concerned about the
economic, cultural and environmental harms that could be caused by
corporate factory farms, according to court documents.

Needmore farmers Ricky Leese and Ralph Swope in November 2001
challenged the ordinance and two others that regulate farming.

A dozen townships in five counties have adopted similar ordinances.

The Pennsylvania Farm Bureau lobbied the governor and state
Legislature to ban local ordinances that control farming.