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AS I SEE IT

Posted 6/08/16 (Wed)

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

When North Dakotans go to the polls on June 14, they will be asked to decide the fate of one state measure, which deals with the state’s corporate farming law.
Up until the last legislative session, North Dakota banned corporate farming in the state. That ban was enacted by an initiated measure that was passed by North Dakota voters in 1932. But during the last legislative session, after much hand-wringing and debate, Senate Bill 2351 was passed which allowed for corporate dairy and swine operations numbers of at least 50 cows or 500 hogs on a farm of up to 640 acres.
As the ballot measure is written, a “Yes” vote would affirm the actions of the 2015 North Dakota Legislature, while a “No” vote would repeal the Legislature’s actions to broaden the state’s corporate farming laws.
Proponents of the measure say that it is time for North Dakota to broaden its corporate farming law and allow for limited exemptions.
Opponents, on the other hand, claim that family farms are the backbone of the state’s agriculture industry and deserve protection.
In my opinion, both sides are right in this issue.
It is time for North Dakota to move forward to offer some limited corporate farming operations in the state. The state’s ban on corporation farming hasn’t saved the family farm. The small family farm, although they do exist, is being replaced by huge family farms, which oftentimes represent several family members that in all appearances are similar to a corporation.
Most assuredly, the state does need to protect all of its family farm operations from the giant corporations that operate farms. If full scale corporate farming was allowed in North Dakota, it would no doubt forever change the state’s landscape and all of the farming communities that rely on these local family-based operations.
And that is the compromise that the North Dakota Legislature made in 2015 with the passage of SB 2351. They protected the family farm, but also provided an exemption that would allow for small dairy and pig operations.
Measure No. 1 deserves a “Yes” vote by North Dakota voters.