The Corner

How Minnesota Farms Have to Fight Protectionism

Imagine that you are a farmer in Arlington, Va., who sells pumpkins and pumpkin products. Now imagine that your business expands and that you acquire some lands in Bethesda, Md. Now you can grow more pumpkins and sell more pumpkin products.

No one would think twice, I am assuming, about letting the good Arlington farmer (who doesn’t accept farm subsidies because he only lives in my imagination) sell his whole production of pumpkins from his Arlington farm.

Yet that is precisely what is now against the law in Lake Elmo, Minn. On December 1, 2009, the Lake Elmo City Council declared that, from now on, it will enforce a law that forbids farmers from selling products from their own land unless the products were grown inside city limits. I will spare you the city politicians’ excuses for enforcing this law, although you read about them here.

The penalty for selling one’s Bethesda-grown pumpkin from the Arlington farm: 90 days in jail and $1,000 in fines.That’s crazy. It is so crazy, I thought it was a joke. That’s until I saw that the Institute for Justice – a national public-interest law firm and a great champion of economic liberty and the rights of entrepreneurs — was actually taking this case and on May 18 filed a federal lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota on behalf of seven farmers around the country, challenging Lake Elmo’s trade ban as a violation of fundamental constitutional rights.

For more on this case, watch this short video.

The case has already gotten national coverage, including nice features in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Associated Press, Reason magazine, the St. Paul Pioneer Press, and the Star Tribune. Also, yesterday, IJ client Keith Bergmann had an op-ed published that’s worth reading. 

Please, if you hear more about this case, send information my way. Thank you in advance.

Veronique de Rugy — Veronique de Rugy is a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

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