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Appeals Court Upholds Nebraska Ban on Corporate Farming

March 1, 1991

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) _ An appeals court upheld Nebraska’s ban on corporate farming, which is intended to preserve family farms.

″The people of Nebraska have made a reasonable judgement in prohibiting non-family corporate farming,″ the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said this week. ″It is not for the courts to second-guess the wisdom of this judgment.″

The decision rejected an appeal filed by MSM Farms Inc., a farm corporation formed in 1988 in Platte County, said MSM Farms lawyer John DeCamp. Its stockholders, Paul Meyer and Gerald Schleich, are unrelated and that violates the family farm provisions of the law, DeCamp said.

Meyer, of West Point, and Schleich, of Lincoln, own 10 acres near Columbus. They have acknowledged the sole purpose of their action was to test the constitutionality of the ban on corporate farms, known as Initiative 300.

U.S. District Judge Warren Urbom ruled in January 1990 that Initiative 300, approved by voters in 1982, did not violate the equal protection or due process clauses of the U.S. Constitution.

The 8th Circuit ruling, dated Wednesday, said: ″The equal protection clause is satisfied if the law, adopted through the initiative process, is rationally related to a legitimate state interest. The district court properly applied that.″

″What the court is saying is that Nebraska doesn’t have to have corporate farming if they don’t want it,″ said a proponent of the law, Marty Strange of the Center for Rural Affairs in Walthill.

″That’s the third time a court has said it. The friends of corporate farming should lay down their checkbooks and surrender,″ Strange said Friday.

The law earlier was upheld in state Supreme Court.

DeCamp said it’s too early to say if he’ll appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

″The impact has been made in Nebraska,″ he said. ″The real rush now will be other states attempting to duplicate it. Nebraska now has the most restrictive laws on farming on the books. Now we wait to see the national impact.″

DeCamp said Friday that the law’s ″artificial restrictions on agriculture are just an attempt to recreate the family farm of the past.″

″While that may be constitutional, it’s unwise economically and adverse to our competitive ability as a nation in agriculture and in the global economy,″ he said.

″It may be legal to cut off your arm, but it’s probably not the wisest thing,″ he said.

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