Bruning taking Initiative 300 to the Supreme Court

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Attorney General Jon Bruning is ready to take Initiative 300, Nebraska's ban on most corporate farming, to the Supreme Court after it lost another court battle, this time in the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

"It's our job to defend the amendment, and that's what we'll do," Bruning said in a release.

Damnation by faint praise?

As he pointed out in his release, "Nebraskans voted to add Initiative 300 to our state constitution because family farms are an important part of our heritage."

But we have to wonder how successful Bruning expects to be. In 2004, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of South Dakota's similar ban on corporate farming.

That appeal also was from the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which found that South Dakota's Amendment E was unconstitutional because it interfered with interstate commerce.

Nebraska's amendment was passed in 1982 by voters angered by corporate farm excesses and longing for a return to the good old days of mom-and-pop family farms.

Small farms need to be given a fair chance to succeed, but not through an arbitrary ban on certain types of business structures. If Initiative 300 is ultimately overturned, attention needs to shift to the root economic causes of farm troubles.

Broadband Internet service delivered over power lines is possible, but there are limitations, according to Jerry Vap, Nebraska Public Service Commissioner. Transmission is currently -- no pun intended -- limited to a relatively short distance, meaning expensive repeater systems would be required to reach remote locations. Thus, utilities would be most competitive in heavily populated areas, which, for the most part, have no shortage of broadband service.

Still, we feel the technology should be given a fair chance to compete if it proves itself.

While it is true that the Platte River is over-appropriated, that doesn't really matter, contends Steve Smith of WaterClaim, because transferring the water doesn't increase the total amount of water used.

"For example, let's say that the Platte has 100 gallons of water. The Cooperative Agreement requires a 15-gallon reduction.  There are still 85 gallons that can be used for agriculture," Smith writes. "If I am willing to pay the farmer and the community more for the one gallon we need than what they can get now from selling corn, then it is to their advantage to sell us the one gallon. If they sell it to us, then they still have 84 gallons left with which they can raise their corn."

Complicating that idea, however is the fact that under the Platte River Cooperative Agreement, farmers to the north are competing for water with whooping cranes, piping plover, least tern and pallid sturgeon.

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