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Family agriculture or corporate farms – a state’s right to choose

Denver, Colo.—Rocky Mountain Farmers Union (RMFU) has joined with other farm organizations in support of an Amicus, or Friend of the Court, brief filed by Farmers’ Legal Action Group (FLAG) asking the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold states’ authority to enact laws that promote family farming by restricting corporations’ ability to own farmland or engage in farming.

The Amicus brief, filed on behalf of 35 national, regional, and state farm and community organizations urges the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse a December 2005 decision of the U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska striking “Initiative 300.” Initiative 300 is a Nebraska constitutional amendment restricting non-family-owned corporations from engaging in farming and ranching.

The U.S. District Court held that Initiative 300 violates the U.S. Constitution because it discriminates against out-of-state economic interests. The farm organizations argue that, like other states’ laws restricting corporate farming, Initiative 300 fosters family farming and healthy rural communities, and is a legitimate regulation of a state’s agricultural system.

“This constitutional amendment helps to strengthen rural America by encouraging agricultural communities to grow and remain viable,” said RMFU President John Stencel. “The Nebraska citizens echo what family farmers and ranchers feel across America.” Eight states have similar laws that may be open to legal challenge if the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals does not reverse the decision. Susan Stokes, FLAG’s executive director, warns, “An Eighth Circuit decision reversing the U.S. District Court is key to states’ retaining the ability to pass laws that help preserve the family farm system of agriculture.”

“Studies and real-life experiences show that family farming provides real social and economic benefits for entire rural communities,” said Tom Buis, National Farmers Union president. “Family farmers and ranchers are involved in their communities enhancing the general welfare of rural America.”

Mark Schultz, policy program director for the Land Stewardship Project, emphasized, “Other states have also recognized the importance of preserving family farming through restrictions on non-family-based corporate farming. For example, the Minnesota Legislature found that it is in the interest of the state to encourage and protect the family farm as the most socially desirable mode of agricultural production. Family farming enhances the stability and well-being of our rural communities and rural families.”

The organizations that joined in the Amicus brief are:

National Farmers Union
National Family Farm Coalition
American Corn Growers Association
Rocky Mountain Farmers Union
Minnesota Farmers Union
Land Stewardship Project
North Dakota Farmers Union
Dakota Resource Council
South Dakota Farmers Union
Dakota Rural Action
Iowa Farmers Union
Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement
Missouri Farmers Union
Missouri Rural Crisis Center
Arkansas Farmers Union
Campaign for Family Farms
Western Organization of Resource Councils
Federation of Southern Cooperatives
Illinois Farmers Union
Illinois Stewardship Alliance
Indiana Farmers Union
Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana
Powder River Basin Resource Council
Kansas Farmers Union
Wisconsin Farmers Union
Ohio Farmers Union
Michigan Farmers Union
Pennsylvania Farmers Union
Montana Farmers Union
Utah Farmers Union
Texas Farmers Union
Alaska Farmers Union
Oregon Farmers Union
Washington Farmers Union
California Farmers Union