As the Unicameral wrestles with the so-called Right to Farm amendment to the state constitution, a legal scholar at the University of Nebraska Lincoln sees the proposal as being on unsteady ground.
UNL law professor Anthony Schutz says there are problems with the language of the bill, plus, he says this agricultural issue doesn’t need to be elevated to the constitutional level.
“We often use constitutional rights to protect minority interests, interests that don’t get due regard in the political process,” Schutz says. “I just don’t think agriculture fits that bill in Nebraska. Maybe in other places it does, but in Nebraska, agriculture is not the sort of minority interest that really needs to be protected from the political process.”
Schutz says he’s not clear on how the court system might become involved if the measure should pass the Unicameral.
“That would have yet to be determined,” Schutz says. “I don’t know how willing the judiciary would be to really wade in on every piece of legislation they’re called upon to do. It would just depend on what the court does with it. It interjects a lot of uncertainty and I’m not sure that at the end of the day that it’s really worth it or that it’s really necessary.”
The Nebraska Cattlemen’s Association backs the bill while the Nebraska Farmers Union and others oppose it. The State Farm Bureau wants the issue studied further.
Right to Farm seeks to protect the rights of farmers and ranchers by preventing the state legislature from passing new regulations affecting agriculture without a compelling state interest.
The measure is modeled after a ballot proposal in Oklahoma, while Missouri and North Dakota have similar amendments to their constitutions. If approved by the Unicameral, Right to Farm would go to a vote of the people in November.
UPDATE: The sponsor of the measure has shelved it for this legislative session, but says a similar measure will return next year. – ed.
By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton