The 8th U.S. Court of Appeals upheld a lower court's ruling saying that Amendment E was unconstitutional Tuesday.
Amendment E was designed to protect the state's farmers from unfair competition by big corporations. It generally excludes nonfamily farm corporations from owning farmland or farming in South Dakota. Eight other Midwestern states have similar laws.
An Aberdeen district judge ruled Amendment E unconstitutional last year, saying it violated a provision in the U.S. Constitution, which gives Congress the authority to regulate interstate Commerce and prohibit states from engaging in actions that amount to economic protectionism.
Judge Charles Kornmann also said it would violate the Americans with Disabilities Act by requiring at least one family member of a corporate farm to live on the farm or do the daily chores and management.
The appeals court said the South Dakota amendment discriminated against out-of-state businesses. The court also said supporters of the amendment had failed to prove that "a ban on corporate farming would effectively preserve family farms or protect the environment."
South Dakota Farm Bureau, state Sheep Growers Association, a handful of farmers and ranchers, and two electric companies filed the lawsuit. The agriculture groups opposing the amendment say it is too restrictive and takes away farming opportunities.
Legal experts called the ruling a major decision in the battle over corporate control of agriculture, and they predicted the court ruling would influence the ongoing national debate over that issue. But it’s too soon to tell how this ruling will affect other state’s corporate farming laws.
In related news, family farm advocates blasted a report critical of Nebraska’s 21-year ban on corporate agriculture, while the state’s governor, Mike Johanns, says the findings should be carefully studied.
The governor plans to launch a task force next year to evaluate the state’s corporate farming law, dubbed I-300, based on the report.
Des Moines Register, AP, Rapid City Journal