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Advisory Panel Urges Rewrite of Kansas Farm Law

November 25, 2013
 
 

Source: Associated Press

An advisory panel has recommended amending Kansas' corporate agriculture law to alter provisions that might be vulnerable to constitutional challenges.


The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that members of a Kansas Judicial Council advisory committee issued the unanimous recommendation Friday. The committee is responsible for submitting a final report to the 2014 Legislature. Lawmakers debated changes in the 2013 session but decided they need more information before making changes.

Gov. Sam Brownback's administration has pushed to roll back the state's eight-decades-old limits on corporate involvement in farming. Some of the state's biggest agricultural interests, including the Kansas Farm Bureau, are supporting the effort.

"There are entities out there reluctant to come to Kansas," said Steve Swafford, of the Kansas Farm Bureau.

Currently, Kansas law 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 requires at least one partner or shareholder to live on the land or be actively engaged in supervising the work. There are exceptions for feedlots, poultry operations, dairies and hog farms.

The advisory committee concluded that mandating all partners in a relevant farm corporation had to be Kansans was discriminatory against nonresidents. The panel also agreed that a requirement that farm corporations operating in the state, with the exception of family farms, had to be formed under Kansas law violated court precedent on interstate commerce.

Paul Johnson, who represents the Kansas Rural Center and opposes the governor's reform agenda, feared proposed changes would open the state to the world of hedge-fund managers with only monetary connections to the state.

"It's absentee land ownership and contract farming," Johnson said. "How well will our land and communities be treated?" 

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