Nebraska's corporate farming ban is being challenged in a federal lawsuit filed by a state senator who is also a cattle rancher, according to a Dow Jones report.



The lawsuit is the latest chapter in the ongoing battle over Nebraska's ban, known as Initiative 300, which was added to the state's constitution by popular vote in 1982. Seven other Midwestern states - Iowa, Kansas, North Dakota, Minnesota, Missouri, Oklahoma and Wisconsin - have similar bans.



Nebraska's ban was enacted by supporters of small, family farms in an effort to ward off an influx of corporate farming in the state. Detractors say the law has not worked, pointing out that the number of family farms in Nebraska has dropped from 65,000 in 1980 to 54,000 today.



Supporters argue it was never intended to save family farms. Instead, they say, it was intended to level the playing field by restricting corporate farming and limiting access to the tax benefits and limited liability enjoyed by corporations.



Critics, including those who filed the lawsuit, have said the ban is too restrictive and hurts farmers without family ties who want to use the corporate structure of organization.



The ban generally prohibits corporations and certain other business entities from owning farmland or engaging in agricultural activity, although there are numerous exceptions. Potential violators can come into compliance by divesting their agricultural activity or changing their ownership structure from a corporation or limited liability company to a general partnership.



Any farms owned by corporations in Nebraska prior to 1982 were grandfathered in under the law, but they could not expand or buy new land. The law does not cover meat processors, such as Tyson Foods Inc. and ConAgra Foods Inc.



The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Omaha, claims the ban violates a number of clauses in the U.S. Constitution, including commerce, equal protection, and privileges and immunities. The lawsuit also claims the ban violates the Americans with Disabilities Act because it requires at least one family member who owns the farm to be engaged in day-to-day physical activities on the farm. That clause discriminates against people with disabilities, the lawsuit said.



Nebraska Sen. Jim Jones of Eddyville, who owns a ranch in southern Custer County, said was motivated to sue because repeated attempts to modify the law in the Legislature were unsuccessful.



Besides Jones, the other plaintiffs in the latest suit are Nebraska landowners who say argue their ability to expand or acquire farms is hindered by the law.