Constitutional Claim on Pumpkins

MINNEAPOLIS (CN) – Small farmers claim the City of Lake Elmo unconstitutionally prohibits them from selling out-of-state pumpkins. A Lake Elmo family farm and its Nebraska pumpkin supplier say the city ordinance interferes with interstate commerce.

     The Bergmann family, which runs Country Sun Farm, says Lake Elmo never questioned farmers about where their goods were grown until 2009. But in that year, the city prohibited farmers from selling agricultural produce in Lake Elmo unless it was grown in Lake Elmo, according to the federal complaint.
     The Bergmanns claim that Lake Elmo Mayor Dean Johnston admitted at the Dec. 1, 2009 City Council meeting that enforcing the town’s Lake-Elmo-only policy would be “punitive,” so enforcement was stayed until Dec. 31. The ordinance also took aim at out-of-state Christmas trees.
     Now, vendors of out-of-Elmo pumpkins and Christmas trees face threats of “fine and/or incarceration.”
     The Bergmanns say the city based its ordinance on the bogus claim that sales of out of state produce would increase traffic. Whether that’s true or not, the farmers say, the city cannot interfere with interstate commerce. Besides, Lake Elmo is just 6 miles from the Wisconsin border, and the Bergmanns have sold trees and pumpkins from Wisconsin since 2003 without horrendous impact on Lake Elmo traffic.
     The Bergmanns say they usually grown all their pumpkins at home in Lake Elmo farm, but because of deer, weather and disease it couldn’t meet demands of buyers last year.
     If Lake Elmo is permitted to enforce its unconstitutional ordinance, the Bergmanns say, they will lose 20 to 32 percent of their gross income.
     The Bergmanns want the ordinance enjoined. They are joined as plaintiffs by the Daniels family, which supplies them with pumpkins from Nebraska.
     The farmers are represented by Anthony Sanders with the Minnesota Chapter of the Institute for Justice.
     Lake Elmo’s population was 7,484 in July 2008. Ninety-four percent of its residents have high school diplomas, 32 percent have bachelor’s degrees, and 10.5 percent have graduate or professional degrees, according to
     Lake Elmo’s median household income of $91,988 is 61 percent higher than the state median of $57,288, according to city-data. Lake Elmo’s unemployment rate is 5 percent and the mean travel time to work is 23 minutes.

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