Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Forced "Buy Local" law challenged

The city of Lake Elmo, Minnesota is facing a federal lawsuit for enforcing a localist law forbidding farms from selling crops raised outside city limits.

The legislation in question has been on the books for years, but it was recently dredged out by the city council with the intent of "preserving rural character." Everything from Christmas trees to October pumpkins would need to be grown within the city limits.

Farmer Keith Bergmann of the Country Sun Farm have been selling crops they grow within city limits - but some of the large farm extends beyond city limits so those crops would be banned. His family also has been selling products they grow on a second farm in Wisconsin, and they purchased crops from out of state in a similar manner to Maine's maple syrup industry.

This sounds like a very effective strategy to force people to buy local. If farmers selling local crops are losing customers to importers, an iron-clad ban would destroy the competition. This is naked protectionism at it's worse, and it's very clearly unconstitutional.

In Article 1, Section 8 of the United States Constitution, it says only congress has the right "to
regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes."

That's why "buy local" chapters usually don't try to use laws banning imports from other states - they can't get away with it. If they did you would surely see it come up a lot because it would give people no choice but to buy from local merchants.

The same constitutional article continues in Section 9;

"No Tax or Duty shall be laid on Articles exported from any State.

"No Preference shall be given by any Regulation of Commerce or Revenue to the Ports of one State over those of another: nor shall Vessels bound to, or from, one State, be obliged to enter, clear, or pay Duties in another."

That's why "buy local" can't force it's way with a special tax on out-of-state goods either.

It's a good thing the legislation in Minnesota will fall in federal court like a ripe gourd before a blade. It would indeed create more agricultural work within city limits as intended. But at the cost of strangling other businesses because people would have less money left over after buying their holiday-specific plants.

The wealth of the citizens would be decreased because they'd get less stuff with their money. Agricultural jobs would only be created at the expense of other jobs, so there would be no gain there.

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