Nebraska's Corporate Farm Ban Dies After U.S. Supreme Court Refuses To Review It

Monday, April 2nd 2007, 8:05 pm
By: News On 6

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) _ Nebraska's 25-year-old corporate farming ban, the last of its kind in the country, was dealt a fatal blow Monday.

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to review an appellate court's decision last year that ruled the ban violated the U.S. Constitution's commerce clause, which prevents states from enacting laws that disrupt interstate commerce.

``This is very much the final nail in the coffin,'' said David Bracht, an attorney who represents opponents of the ban.

Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning said, ``We are mourning the end of an era today.''

Voters passed the ban in 1982. It generally prohibited corporations and certain other business entities from owning farmland or engaging in agricultural activity in the state.

Opponents argued the ban stymied in-state farmers, such as young people trying to get a foothold in an era of high land prices and often depressed markets by prohibiting them from partnering with non-family members to begin farming operations.

``It will let neighbors get together as neighbors,'' said Jim Jones, a rancher and one of the plaintiffs. He said he may not have been able to farm and ranch had the ban been in place when he began his operation in 1977.

Supporters of the ban plan to push on.

Nebraska Farmers Union President John Hansen said there would be a push for the new federal farm bill to have policies that help reform agriculture markets disfigured by too much corporate concentration, among other factors.

``Agriculture is in a terrible economic situation where we've seen our traditional agriculture markets riddled with market concentration, noncompetitive practices, vertical integration and contract production that has virtually destroyed what most people would understand a market to be,'' he said.

Corporate farming bans have not fared well in the courts in recent years. In 2004, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of a decision declaring South Dakota's ban on corporate farming unconstitutional because it interfered with interstate commerce.