Omaha (Neb.) World-Herald, December 20, 2006


[Rachel's introduction: In 1982, citizens of Nebraska voted to prohibit corporations from farming in their state. Earlier this month, a group of unelected judges voted to overturn the will of the Nebraska citizenry and give corporations the same rights as the individual humans who operate family farms.]

By Bill Hord

Lincoln, Nebraska --- A three-judge panel of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis today ruled that Nebraska's ban on corporate farming is unconstitutional.

The panel upheld a ruling last year by U.S. District Judge Laurie Smith Camp that struck down the ban, enacted as Initiative 300 (I-300) by Nebraska voters in 1982.

I-300 has been considered the toughest restriction in the nation on farming by non-family corporations. Its demise also could bring an end to corporate farming bans in five other states.

Smith Camp had ruled that I-300 discriminated against out-of-state investors by requiring that one member of a Nebraska family corporation be involved in the day-to-day operation of the farm.

An appeal is nearly certain, said Nebraska Farmers Union president John Hansen, one of the leading proponents of Initiative 300. "But that decision has not been made yet," Hansen said. Hansen said the panel's ruling was under review by the Attorney General's Office and other lawyers who are involved as defenders of I-300.

Before Smith Camp's ruling last year, Initiative 300 had withstood numerous court challenges over its 24-year life. "This is not a good day," said Hansen.

The appeals panel upheld Smith Camp's determination that Initiative 300 violated a federal constitutional provision that limits how much states can regulate interstate commerce.

An appeal would first go to the full 8th Circuit Court. If again upheld, an appeal would go to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The original case was brought by former State Sen. Jim Jones of Eddyville and five others who said the ban restricted their right to benefit from corporate business practices.