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Federal Judge Rules Nebraska Ban on Corporate Farms is Illegal


Thursday, December 15, 2005
Nebraska corporate farming ban ruled down


LINCOLN, Neb. -- A federal judge on Thursday rejected Nebraska's ban on
corporate farming as unconstitutional.

The ban, widely known as Initiative 300, was added to the state
constitution through a petition drive spearheaded by the Farmers Union
in 1982. I-300 generally prohibits corporations and certain other
business entities from owning farmland or engaging in agricultural
activity, although there were numerous exceptions.

U.S. District Judge Laurie Smith-Camp said the ban violates the
commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution and the Americans With
Disabilities Act.

Attorney General Jon Bruning said his office plans to appeal the ruling.

The lawsuit was filed by several ranchers, including former state Sen.
Jim Jones, who said the ban hindered them in trying to form family
corporations to preserve their operations or to combine with neighbors.

The lawsuit said I-300 violates the Americans With Disabilities Act
because it requires at least one family member who owns the farm to be
engaged in day-to-day physical activities on the farm. That, according
to the lawsuit, discriminates against people with disabilities.

The ban exempts farms that are family owned and operated, nonprofit
corporations, American Indian tribal corporations, land used for seed
or nursery purposes and land used for research or experimental purposes.

At least nine states - Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska,
North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Wisconsin - passed laws in the
1970s and 1980s to restrict corporate farm ownership.

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of a
similar decision, which found that South Dakota's ban on corporate
farming was unconstitutional.

Smith-Camp said Nebraska's law violated the federal commerce clause,
which says states may not enact laws that discriminate against or
unduly burden interstate commerce.

David Jarecke, an attorney who represented the plaintiffs, hailed the

"I am particularly pleased for Nebraska producers who will now have the
opportunity to combine their efforts," he said.