During the Center’s early years the organization made some big splashes. The publication of reports such as Who Will Sit Up with the Corporate Sow? in 1975 and Wheels of Fortune in 1976 established the Center as a crucial voice in rural policy debates in and beyond Nebraska.
However, nothing signaled the Center’s coming of age more than Initiative 300, the successful effort to prohibit corporate farming in Nebraska by amending the state’s constitution. Nebraska Farmers Union President Neil Oxton, Marty Strange and Chuck Hassebrook at the Center, and many others worked tirelessly to ultimately win 57% of the vote in a classic David and Goliath tale.
While Initiative 300 was overturned by a federal court 25 years later, there was no overturning what our organization had become. If winning the Initiative 300 vote was a great, gettin’ up moment for the Center, then the person who played as big a role in the emergence of the Center as any other friend, ally, and mentor was Neil Oxton.
Neil passed away on November 16, 2013. His dedication to family farm issues went much deeper than farm and ranch economics. His work with the late Betty Olson at Nebraskans for Peace to challenge the largesse of federal military spending over addressing poverty and hunger in America stands as a testament to his commitment to justice.
I’m comforted in the thought that Neil would support our continued work to confront the excesses of unlimited farm program payments and crop insurance premium subsidies provided to the nation’s largest and wealthiest farms, at a time when many in Congress are seeking to slash nutrition assistance to the nation’s poorest families.
Godspeed old friend. We will remember the lessons you taught us in our early years, and we will honor you by carrying your commitment to justice with us into the future.
Photo credit: Former Nebraska Farmers Union President Neil Oxton (right) is pictured with former NE Governor Charles Thone (seated) and former Secretary of State Alan Beerman at the official signing ceremony of Initiative 300 in 1982. I-300, the strongest state ban on corporate farming in the nation, was proposed and spearheaded by Nebraska Farmers Union. | Photo by Nebraska Farmers Union
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