Agricultural land is extremely vulnerable to condemnation by government entities under the guise of economic development, said American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman, during testimony before a joint Oklahoma state house/senate task force.
The U.S. Supreme Court earlier this summer ruled land can be confiscated for economic benefit, in its landmark case of Kelo v. the City of New London, Conn. AFBF is encouraging state Farm Bureaus to lead urban and rural property owners to support changes in state laws that remedy this problem. For that reason, a Stop Taking Our Property (STOP) initiative was rolled out this week by AFBF, Stallman said.
“By holding that the U.S. Constitution does not forbid the use of eminent domain to take private property and give it to another party for its own private economic gain, the Supreme Court has essentially put all of our property up to the highest bidder,” Stallman told the senators.
Agricultural lands, especially those in expanding urban areas, provide a ready source for potential shopping malls, industrial parks and housing complexes. Condemnation of this land also results in farmland that has been in a family for several generations simply being taken away, Stallman said.
In the Supreme Court ruling, the court said the Constitution allows states and local governments to take private property for economic development projects, but the court also said that states can enact laws disallowing the taking of private property for economic benefit. Passage of a state law to limit the use of eminent domain is what the Oklahoma Farm Bureau and AFBF are supporting.
Stallman said AFBF saw a major need to initiate the STOP campaign to assist Farm Bureaus to overcome the effects of Kelo. Many states are similar to Oklahoma in not currently protecting residents against use of eminent domain for economic gain by local governments.
In wrapping up his testimony, Stallman said, “The solution lies in your hands and other state legislatures around the country.”
American Farm Bureau Federation: www.fb.org