Florida court orders state to pay former pig farmer
By GARY FINEOUT
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- A Florida appeals court is siding with a former pig farmer who shut down his business after voters passed the "pregnant pig" amendment more than a decade ago.
The 1st District Court of Appeal ruled Wednesday in a split decision that the state owes a Panhandle farmer $505,000 plus interest.
Stephen Basford closed down his pork production operation in Jackson County after voters in 2002 approved an amendment that prohibited the tying up or confining of gestating sows in enclosures too small for them to turn around freely.
Nearly 55 percent of the state's voters approved the amendment, which did not actually take effect until 2008. The measure applied to just two farms in the state, both of which went out of business.
State legislators attempted to compensate the two farms but then-Gov. Jeb Bush vetoed the funding. Basford sued the state in 2010 for the cost of the barns and other equipment he had used for his farm. He won at the circuit court level and the state appealed.
Stephen Turner, the Tallahassee attorney who represented Basford, praised the latest ruling and called the amendment "dangerous."
"This amendment was targeted to put him out of business," Turner said Wednesday. "How proper is that?"
Lawyers with the state argued Basford had waited too long to sue. But the court sided with Basford because the amendment did not take effect until six years after voters approved it.
The state also unsuccessfully argued that Basford did not deserve compensation because he continued to raise other crops on his farm.
Attorney General Pam Bondi represented the state in the appeals case. Bondi's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The three judges on the appeals court ruled 2-1 in favor of Basford.
Judge Phil Padovano, who dissented, agreed that the amendment ended Basford's pork production operation. But he argued that Basford didn't deserve compensation because his hog farm consisted of just four acres on a 318-acre farm.
"We are obligated to evaluate the plaintiff's claim based on the effect this new constitutional provision had on the entire parcel of land, not just one structure on the land, or several acres of the land," Padovano wrote.
The 2002 amendment, sponsored by animal-rights groups, became a rallying point for business interests who were able to persuade their allies in the Republican-controlled Legislature to make it harder to amend the Florida Constitution by petition.