Saturday, September 30, 2006

Redefining "farming" and "agricultural production"

Changes in the structure of the agricultural industry create challenges for courts faced with interpreting terms such as “farming” and “agricultural production.” As previously discussed, vertical integration and specialization have rendered the meanings of “farming” and “agricultural production” ambiguous.

Integrated poultry production
Courts have used a variety of approaches to interpret the meanings of these ambiguous terms:
  1. Deny that these terms are ambiguous. Ascertain the “clear” meaning of the terms “farming” and “agricultural production” today. Look at current dictionary definitions of the terms, evidence of the nature of agricultural production today, and recent court cases defining the terms. See, e.g., Farmegg Products, Inc. v. Humboldt County, 190 N.W.2d 454 (Iowa 1971) (dissenting opinion).

  2. Deny that these terms are ambiguous. Ascertain the “clear” meaning of the terms “farming” and “agricultural production” at the time that the statute was written. Look at contemporaneous dictionary definitions of the terms and evidence of the nature of agricultural production at the time that the statute was written. See, e.g., Farmegg, (majority opinion).

  3. Resolve the issue of how “agricultural production” should be defined by considering how the original authors of the statute would have resolved the issue, had they anticipated the changes that have taken place in the agricultural industry. Consider the mischief that the authors were trying to address by passing the statute and the political and social climate at the time that the statute was enacted (static interpretation approach). See, e.g., National Broiler Marketing Association v. United States, 436 U.S. 816 (1978) (majority opinion).

  4. Resolve the issue of how “agricultural production” should be defined in a way that is fair and workable today and consistent with the statute’s purpose (dynamic interpretation approach). See, e.g., National Broiler, 436 U.S. 816 (dissenting opinion).
Farmegg Products, Inc. v. Humboldt County, 190 N.W.2d 454 (Iowa 1971), and National Broiler Marketing Association v. United States, 436 U.S. 816 (1978), illustrate approaches that courts have taken to interpret the meanings of “agricultural purposes” in the first instance and “agricultural production” in the second instance. Both Farmegg and National Broiler were decided in the 1970s, when the poultry industry was first becoming vertically integrated. In Farmegg, the Iowa Supreme Court was asked to interpret the breadth of an agricultural exemption from state and county zoning regulations. In National Broiler, the Supreme Court of the United States was asked to determine the reach of an agricultural exemption from federal antitrust regulations.

In the coming days, I will describe and evaluate the statutory interpretation approaches employed in Farmegg and National Broiler.

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home