Right to farm constitutional amendment stalls

The Legislature accepted a senator’s motion March 24 to end debate on his proposal that would amend the state constitution to guarantee the rights of Nebraska citizens to farm and ranch.

Sponsored by Sen. John Kuehn of Heartwell, LR378CA offered a constitutional amendment that would prohibit the Legislature from passing laws that restrict the rights of Nebraskans to use agricultural technology and ranching practices without a compelling state interest. The resolution would place the amendment on the November 2016 general election ballot.

Kuehn said the amendment would protect the state’s largest industry by reducing the influence of animal and environmental advocacy groups on public policy. He said those groups use misinformation to exert pressure on the Legislature to pass laws that restrict certain farming and ranching practices.

Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers filed a motion to bracket the proposal until April 20, the last day of the session. He said the amendment would not prevent the speech or actions of groups that seek to change farming practices. The amendment’s language is unclear and would prevent the Legislature from passing laws related to agriculture that could not meet an extremely strict legal standard, Chambers said.

“The only entity affected by this amendment is this Legislature,” he said. “This Legislature is not going to undermine agriculture.”

Citing opponents’ legal concerns about the amendment’s language and the limited time remaining in the legislative session, Kuehn filed a motion to bracket the bill until April 20. There were no objections. The proposal is unlikely to be debated again this session.

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