Victory for Farming Freedom

J. Justin Wilson
J. Justin Wilson · October 6, 2010

Minneapolis, Minn,—Farmers in Lake Elmo, Minn., can breathe a sigh of relief after the city tore down its protectionist trade barriers, restoring to farmers their freedom to sell produce grown outside city limits. Lake Elmo farmers, who faced 90 days in jail and a thousand dollars in fines for violating the trade ban, can now import and sell produce they have grown themselves, as well as sell produce they’ve purchased from farmers around the country.

“I’m thrilled that the city backed down and decided to let us continue serving the many people who’ve been coming to our farm for decades to buy our plants and produce,” said Keith Bergmann, who teamed up with farmers around the country and the Institute for Justice Minnesota Chapter (IJ-MN) to challenge the law in court. “Free trade helps ensure that our farm and others around the country remain economically viable so we can preserve our decades-long tradition of helping families get that perfect pumpkin or Christmas tree and enjoy the holiday season.”

Media are encouraged to visit Country Sun Farm today, where the Bergmanns will be available to discuss the lawsuit and answer questions.

The change was made in response to a federal judge’s opinion in August that Lake Elmo’s protectionist law likely violated the U.S. Constitution because it discriminated against interstate commerce. Magistrate Judge Franklin L. Noel stated that the law “squelche[d] competition . . . altogether, leaving no room for investment from outside,” and would likely have “obliterate[ed] . . . the Lake Elmo markets in pumpkins and Christmas trees. . . . In fact, Plaintiffs have shown that the markets will be wiped out.”


The city of Lake Elmo imposed the protectionist law in 2008, requiring that all agricultural produce sold on Lake Elmo’s farms must actually be grown in Lake Elmo. This would have significantly damaged the Bergmanns, and others like them, who grow produce elsewhere and sell it from their Lake Elmo farm. Judge Noel’s opinion recommended that a preliminary injunction be issued preventing the law from being enforced while the Institute for Justice lawsuit is litigated. The City Council’s change in the law now makes a preliminary injunction unnecessary.

“The Constitution was crafted to guarantee free trade among the states,” said IJ-MN attorney Anthony Sanders, lead counsel in the lawsuit. “Lake Elmo farmers never should have been threatened with 90 days in jail and a thousand dollars in fines for simply selling pumpkins grown outside city limits. Thankfully, their rights—and the rights of their trading partners around the country—have been vindicated.”

The change in the law allows the Bergmanns and other Lake Elmo farms to apply for a permit to supplement their agricultural sales with goods not grown on site. The Bergmanns once again have the freedom to sell out-of-state pumpkins and Christmas trees from their farm, something they have done every year for over 25 years.

Opened in 2005, IJ-MN is one of four state chapters of the Institute for Justice, an Arlington, Va.-based nonprofit public interest law firm founded in 1991 to advance economic liberty, free speech, property rights and educational choice.

Click here> for more on the lawsuit.