January 6, 2006
Stand up for your property rights!
Editor's Note: The following are excerpts from Texas Farm Bureau President Kenneth Dierschke's address at the 72nd Annual Texas Farm Bureau meeting in Waco:
By Kenneth Dierschke
"An old English proverb tells that everyone must row with the oars we have. Those among us that have built farming operations from the ground up, or built upon the work of previous generations, know that this is true.
"The people in this roomand Farm Bureau members before ushave created a farm organization that has taken its place among the great public policy groups in Texas.
"What we have built togetherwe have the opportunity to use for the betterment of agriculture and farm and ranch people. I'm happy to row with those oars. We are prepared for the big challenges that are ahead.
"The actions of governmentexecutive, legislative and judicialduring this year have been, at times, helpful; at other times, questionable; and sometimes, absolutely inexcusable.
"For farmers and ranchers, the list of problems starts with the United States Supreme Court and the outrageous Kelo versus New London case. Frankly, Farm Bureau was stunned that the court could justify such a severe blow to the foundation of private property rights in America.
"The Kelo case reaches far beyond the traditional use of eminent domain, normally reserved for the construction of public projects like roads, bridges, parks and reservoirs.
"This is a land grab to benefit a privileged few and it places a new weapon in the hands of local governments, that in some cases, have been more than willing to attack agriculture.
"The court ruled that a family in New London, Connecticut, had to give up their homeagainst their willso that a private developer could proceed with an economic development plan. This is the first time the court has allowed eminent domain to be used in such a way. The farmers and ranchers of Texas view this as a colossal mistakeone that farmers, ranchers and landowners could pay for with their livelihoods.
"Farm Bureau wasn't just stunned by the decision. In fact, we were outraged. Many farmers and ranchers across America wondered if they really owned their land anymore. Are hard-working farmers and ranchers now simply `caretakers of their land'until such time as a city or economic development corporation decides they can put the land to better use?
"Pastures and orchards near a major city may appear to some greedy eyes as nothing more than potential shopping malls and subdivisions. Cotton and grain fields might provide more tax base if developed.
"Some, no doubt, will view this as a `greater good.' But it absolutely tramples upon the bedrock principle of private property rightsand we will not stand for it!
"In the Texas Legislature, we helped pass a bill that does three things. First, private property may not be taken to benefit another private entity. Second, property may not be taken as a pretext to benefiting another private entity. And finally, property may not be taken under eminent domain for purposes of economic development.
"Certainly, this bill is not perfect, but it is not the end. Farm Bureau will build the coalitions to write these protections into the Constitution of the State of Texas! For agriculture and rural Texas, there is not a more important issueand it's one that deserves a constitutional amendment.
"Farm Bureau is also backing legislation at the national level to reverse the potential damage of the Kelo case.
"Outrage can be a good thing. Justifiable anger can motivate Farm Bureau members and rural landowners to take action. Action is what we need. You have to be vocal. You have to help state our case whenever possible. A good place to start is with your own elected officials. We have excellent support from most of the Texas Congressional delegation, but all of them must know that their votes will be measured by Farm Bureau's position on private property rights.
"There's nothing more important to us than that."