Wednesday, June 15, 2016

North Dakota voters easily shoot down measure to lift Depression-era ban on corporate farming

Three-fourths of North Dakota voters supported continuation of the state's 84-year-old ban on corporate farming in a referendum. On Tuesday, 76 percent of voters cast ballots to oppose Measure 1, which "would have affirmed legislation from last session, providing exemptions to allow for corporate dairy and swine operations of at least 50 cows or 500 hogs on a farm of up to 640 acres," Jessica Holdman reports for The Bismarck Tribune.

"The legislation was introduced in an effort to save the state’s dwindling pork and dairy industries by allowing non-family members to form corporations and share in investments," Holdman writes. "Opponents said the law was an invitation for big, out-of-state corporations to set up operations in the state, threatening family-owned farms." Sen. Terry Wanzek, R-Jamestown, who introduced the legislation, told Holdman, "All I saw was opportunity, and the opposition—all they see is fear. If I felt it had threatened (family farms), I never would have supported it.”

In 1932 North Dakota "barred non-family corporations from owning farmland or operating farms," Mikkel Pates reports for Agweek. "The exception would have allowed large, corporately-owned dairy and swine farms to own as many as 640 acres." The North Dakota Farmers Union, which led an effort to force the vote, made  90,000 phone calls and 5,000 home visits. NDFU President Mark Watne told Pates, “We always believed that the people of North Dakota would agree that the family farm structure is best for our state’s economy and our communities. The results tonight are a strong message that the people don’t want corporate farming in North Dakota.” (Read more)

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