Archive for Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Kansas lawmakers asked to repeal corporate farm laws

January 16, 2013


— Kansas’ top agriculture official called Tuesday for the repeal of state laws restricting corporations’ involvement in agriculture, a move that would reverse a policy enacted more than 80 years ago.

Agriculture Secretary Dale Rodman said the state’s anti-corporate farming laws hinder the growth of agriculture and recruitment of new agribusinesses to Kansas. Also, in a letter to Rodman earlier this month, Attorney General Derek Schmidt questioned the constitutionality of at least one provision of state law.

“Our corporate farming laws need to be repealed,” Rodman, a former executive with agribusiness giant Cargill Inc., said during an orientation session for freshman legislators. “Basically, our state is an under-utilized asset.”

Eight other states — Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, North Dakota and South Dakota — have laws restricting corporate farming, according to the National Agricultural Law Center at the University of Arkansas. However, the St. Louis-based 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, with jurisdiction in most of those states, has struck down voter-approved restrictions in Nebraska and South Dakota.

Kansas law generally limits corporate ownership of agricultural land to family farm corporations, family partnerships or corporations with 15 or fewer stockholders, who must all be Kansas residents. The state also generally requires at least one partner or shareholder to live on the land or be actively engaged in supervising the work.

There are exceptions to the law for feedlots and poultry operations. Also, counties can allow corporate dairies and hog farms within their borders, and legislators last year made it easier for them to do so.

Kansas has had limited farm ownership since 1931, when it enacted a law barring in-state and out-of-state corporations from producing wheat, corn, barley, oats, rye or potatoes, or running dairy operations. Attempts to loosen restrictions in recent decades have met with fierce opposition from advocates for family farmers and some rural legislators.

Kansas Farmers Union President Donn Teske, a Wheaton farmer, said repealing the remaining restrictions on corporate farming would be “the end of family farming.”

“Every time a 2,000-cow dairy goes in, it takes 20 dairy farmers out of a community,” Teske said. “That is not economic development. That is rural depopulation.”

But after meeting with lawmakers, Gov. Sam Brownback, a former Kansas agriculture secretary himself, told reporters the laws were of “questionable constitutionality.”

“We’re doing a lot of recruiting of businesses to come into rural areas, had quite a bit of success so far, but that is an issue for a number of them,” he said.

Schmidt’s letter to Rodman, dated Jan. 2, responded to the secretary’s request for a formal legal opinion from the attorney general’s office as to whether the state’s anti-corporate farming laws are constitutional. The attorney general declined to issue such an opinion but said a provision allowing only corporations formed by Kansas residents to own land was “discriminatory.”

The federal appeals court in St. Louis has ruled that such restrictions are unconstitutional because they interfere with interstate commerce.

“We cannot conceive a circumstance under which a court would find this provision to pass constitutional muster,” Schmidt wrote to Rodman.

Schmidt’s letter also said “there are reasonable arguments” that other parts of the state’s anti-corporate farming laws are unconstitutional and advised Rodman to approach legislators about potential changes.

It wasn’t clear Tuesday how receptive legislators are to repealing the state’s remaining restrictions on corporate farming, and some were surprised that Rodman broached the idea.

But House Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Sharon Schwartz, a Washington Republican and farmer, said such a move would help small businesses, not just large ones.

Still, Kansas Farm Bureau President Steve Baccus, an Ottawa County farmer, said legislators should move cautiously.

“A lot more discussion needs to take place, more give and take, more understanding from all parties about where we are going to go and how we are going to get there,” Baccus said.


hipgrrrrl 5 years, 4 months ago

An ex-executive from Cargill has no business being an Agriculture Secretary. Helllloo! Can we say conflict of interest??

Frederic Gutknecht IV 5 years, 4 months ago

Corporate involvement in our lives has always been so devastatingly awesome. They have the wherewithal to ignore laws, nature and decency. Corporations, as a unique race of people, have acquired diplomatic immunity, can never be imprisoned and are so rarely sanctioned for their nearly inevitable improprieties. It makes perfect sense, then, to allow them to increase their tremendous wealth by owning all of our land, food and water. They've proven to be good stewards of the planet and such masterful engineers of the apocalypse. Some claimed that the apocalyptic visions of our future was just a lovely and fanciful dream, but the CORPORATON race is bringing it to our hometowns. YAY VERILY, I say unto thee...

Water 5 years, 4 months ago

JJE007, your humor is as dry as a Kansas Summer, Fall, Winter

These are the kind of conditions I'd think the smaller family farm could survive or prosper in. There is a growing market for Quinoa and lentils which require little water. Vegetarianism is rising and they want more variety in grains. Agritourism has been the buzz word for several years now. Whose involved with Agritourism? farms.

Frederic Gutknecht IV 5 years, 4 months ago

Are you saying that allowing corporate farming in Kansas is good for the smaller KS farm???

Richard Heckler 5 years, 4 months ago

The deal with this program is how many family farmers can Brownback force out of business?

cowboy 5 years, 4 months ago

corporate hog farms staffed with undocumented immigrants , Brilliant

SpiritTat 5 years, 4 months ago

@JJE007 - very good point: nope, ain't big GOV'T running/ruining folks' lives, huh ~

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 4 months ago

Worried about the US debt that China owns? Well, once this passes they won't just be buying US treasury bonds-- they'll be buying Kansas crop lands.

headdoctor 5 years, 4 months ago

The Netherlands, Germany, and Japan already own several acres in Kansas. Unfortunately for the Japanese, they lost some of it and the profits by not understanding incorporeal property rights and property tax laws. You are correct in that this will only make the problem worse.

Bob_Keeshan 5 years, 4 months ago

Repeals corporate farm laws. Repeal the mortgage deducation. Repeal corporate taxes, raise sales taxes.

Socialism bad, but Feudalism good? It seems the perfect GOP Kansas is one of lords and serfs.

Joe Hyde 5 years, 4 months ago

That's the endgame position sought by today's Republican conservatives. You nailed it.

Paul R Getto 5 years, 4 months ago

B-K: Bow down and take it, and make sure your head is always below the level of the Master's eyes.

Paul R Getto 5 years, 4 months ago

Bye bye " family" farms. Sell Kansas to rich folks from overseas.

William Weissbeck 5 years, 4 months ago

Here's a question - are Mr. Potter and his banks and corporations any more civicly minded than they were in 1931? There was a genuine fear in 1931 of what would happen as people lost their farms and this was before the real depths of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl years. People need to understand that those who claim to be in favor of free markets and those who claim to be capitalists are not one in the same. Free marketers believe in transparency and a free flow of market information. They believe in a universal set of rules (regulations and the rule of law) enforced by an impartial party (a government). Capitalists on the other hand seek monopoly, manipulate markets, oppose disclosure of information that they could use to their competitive balance, and oppose government regulation. Consolidation of power that is then turned for political purposes is what is feared. Keep the Kochs out of politics and we'd probably let them buy whatever it is that they desire.

Windemere 5 years, 4 months ago

Another view to consider: why is It necessarily good public policy to protect certain farmers from competition? Sure, we feel sorry for good people whose businesses fail because they can't compete with more efficient big businesses. Often ignored, though, are these points: regulations CAN be in place to protect the environment, animal welfare , workers, etc. Cynics, scoff away, but is IS possible. And efficient production means lower prices to consumers. Tough times out there-- I feel happy when a struggling family can pay less for groceries. That's not evil, it's a good thing .

Windemere 5 years, 4 months ago

Consumers ought to have choices. Shop the Merc, shop Walmart. Some families have to pinch every penny to get enough food, or to get recommended amounts of for groups, like protein. Agree that the environment must be protected and that's why pressure should be exerted to have rules in place (and/or truly effective penalties/consequences) for any entity that does demonstrable damage. It's not fair to protect a group like existing KS farmers and not let competition flourish to produce products people want to buy at a mutually agreed upon price. Think fairness and putting the right rules and incentives in place, not a law that is hurts low income consumers.

Frederic Gutknecht IV 5 years, 4 months ago

It's so generous of you to try and "level" the playing field for the poor corporate clubbing click! The "right rules" have always been controlled by GOVcorps!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 4 months ago

"Often ignored, though, are these points: regulations CAN be in place to protect the environment, animal welfare , workers, etc."

Is it really possible, given that what you propose is anathema to the corporate shills proposing this complete corporate takeover of agriculture?

Windemere 5 years, 4 months ago

I understand skepticism, but it shouldn't blind us to the possibility of getting this right, in a way that is fair. The Right is skeptical about government largess and tax and spend entitlements and the Left is skeptical about big business. The extreme skepticism of either shouldn't rule policy decisions.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 4 months ago

This proposal wasn't put forward out of a desire for getting anything either right or fair. It was put forward in order to use the fiction of corporate personhood and the veil that goes with it to avoid any accountability for anything, including the demise of family-owned farms and the spoiling of our air, soil and surface and ground waters, because there are tax-free profits to be made for the properly positioned movers and shakers.

Windemere 5 years, 4 months ago

Sounds like opinion or inference, not a conclusion based on facts. Just like those on the right can insist that any entitlement program is the Lefts way of making everyone dependent on the State. Rhetoric.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 4 months ago

Yes, it might be possible to revise the laws on corporate agriculture in the ways you describe. But that would run very much counter to the actual track record of corporate agriculture over the last several decades. Can an old dog learn new, kinder and gentler tricks? Maybe. But from my point of view, your optimism isn't supported by history.

Frederic Gutknecht IV 5 years, 4 months ago

There is almost no difference between corporations and government. They are run by the same "people". The Right and Left are juggled like fools between hands of the corporate beast.

geekin_topekan 5 years, 4 months ago

Brownbeak will continue down this path, leading the way to making water a national security issue, if the food giants don't own the water by that time. Either way, it doesn't look good.

Alyosha 5 years, 4 months ago

There is nothing "conservative" about undoing nearly 100-year-old settled public policy and traditions in Kansas.

endcorporaterule 5 years, 4 months ago

You know WHY it is "discriminatory" according to constitutional law? Because the way the constitution has been interpreted by the Supreme Court for the last 127 and large by judges who were former corporate attorneys, corporations are people! No no...not just "assemblies of humans" or anything like that, but actual people. A corporation can "move in" and have zero actual people physically attached to it...which is why most corporations "live" in Delaware.

This is why is it important to act now to support efforts to repeal corporate personhood by amending the United States Constitution so that corporate shill justices like Derek Schmidt can't conveniently interpret corporations having a "right" to move in and pollute our state with massive confined feeding agricultural operations. When people pass laws limiting operations like this and the corporations who own them use the judges and the United States Bill of Rights to run roughshod over those citizen enacted laws...that NOT democracy folks!

bad_dog 5 years, 4 months ago

I agree with much of your post, however, FYI businesses initially chose Deleware to incorporate due to its well developed and oft-interpreted incorporation laws. Not such a big deal nowadays as many states have adopted similar statutes.

headdoctor 5 years, 4 months ago

Credit card companies also love Delaware and South Dakota because of their position on usury laws.

endcorporaterule 5 years, 4 months ago

Correct: Three hundred of the Fortune 500 mega corporations like GE...who has only a handful over 1000 total actual Americans working for it, (and paid zero taxes in 2011) are incorporated under Delaware incorporation laws, and fully half of all publicly traded companies as well.

Delaware has extremely lenient corporate policy. This is still as true today as it was when these companies were founded. So in other words....teeny tiny Delaware, with its super friendly incorporation laws dictates policy that bears consequences upon how 300+ million American citizens lives are affected by their actions. Again....


gatekeeper 5 years, 4 months ago

I hope this move will make farmers and those in small farm towns realize that voting republican is not in their best interests and maybe we can get rid of Brownback in the next election. Unfortunately, he will have already done so much harm to the state by then.

Larry Sturm 5 years, 4 months ago

If any of the govenor or any of the ligislaters own big farms it is a conflict of interest.

Frederic Gutknecht IV 5 years, 4 months ago

That is absolutely right on the MONEY. It is, unfortunately, still too hard to "follow the money" to greener pastures for any but the rich. The deck is stacked to the ceiling and the weight of it is no joke on cards with no face, or ace up their sleeve.

Katara 5 years, 4 months ago

Another person posted this yesterday and there is a conflict of interest.

"Will corporate livestock farming benefit Kansans? No, but it will benefit corporations such as Cargill (85% of which is family owned and based in MN), which is where Rodman worked for years and where his son is now a general manager. "

headdoctor 5 years, 4 months ago

If the laws are changed anyone want to take a guess at how long it will be before Cargill and Koch Industries own the bulk of Kansas. Both companies already have their fingers into ranching, farming and forestry. After this my guess is the next project will be to exempt corporate farms and ranches from property tax.

endcorporaterule 5 years, 3 months ago

And now they want to ensure plenty of low wage undocumented labor will be available to staff the corporate hog farms. Is this what the majority of Kansans have been asking of the state government?

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