ND Senate Votes to Change State's Anti-Corporate Farming Law

ND Senate Votes to Change State's Anti-Corporate Farming Law

Hoping to revive the state's ailing dairy and swine industries, North Dakota's Senate endorsed a measure Friday to exempt those operations from the state's eight-decades-old anti-corporate farming law.

The Senate voted 27-18 to allow non-family farm corporations to own or lease agriculture land, as long as the operations don't take up more than 640 acres of land, or a square mile.

The measure now goes to the state House.

Sen. Terry Wanzek, R-Jamestown, and Sen. Joe Miller, R-Park River, both of whom are farmers, appealed to fellow Senators to pass the legislation, saying dairy and hog farm operations in the state face extinction.

"Both of these industries need our support before they are lost altogether in North Dakota," Miller said.

North Dakota's anti-corporate farming law dates to 1932, when it was put on the ballot as an initiated measure and approved by voters. It now allows corporations with as many as 15 shareholders to own farms or ranches, as long as the shareholders are related.

Eight other states have laws restricting corporate farming, though most allow exemptions for some livestock operations, including neighboring South Dakota and Minnesota.

Supporters of the bill say it would improve farmers' access to capital and spur the state's economy. Opponents say the current law blocks unfair competition from big, out-of-state corporations.

Most GOP Senators supported the bill while Democrats opposed it.

Sen. Jim Dotzenrod, D-Wyndmere, who also is a farmer, questioned if the bill is would make a difference in saving the two industries. He and others worried that the bill may open the door for other exemptions to the state's anti-corporate farming law.

"I hope we don't get started having corporate ownership of land," he said.

Federal agriculture data show the number of dairy farms in North Dakota has decreased from about 350 in 2002 to 91 now. The number of dairy cows has dropped from 40,000 to 18,000 during that time, according to the National Agriculture Statistics Service.

Swine numbers have also declined from about 280,000 in 1995 to about 139,000 in 2014, data show.

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Spell Check

The Stick
Homer, MI
2/24/2015 08:22 AM

  FIGHT BACK NORTH DAKOTA!! Do not let the GOP sell you out!! Once big corporations buy ground the average farmer won't be able to afford to buy any. Do you want Smithfield controlling your hog industry? Or a 70-90,000 acre land baron renting ground from the shell corporation that bought everything around you? Don't think it can happen ask anyone in SW lower MI/ N IN. Mention Stamp Farms or Boerson.

Clinton, IL
2/24/2015 09:07 AM

  It's funny how people are so strong against about "corporate farms." It is "ok" for a mom and pop companies to own all sorts of things and funnel the money back to farmland owning thousands of acres. But when little people that can't start farming by themselves, have no means to come up with the money for a down payment, because they can't compete with the mom and pop above, all they can do is pool the money with other people to invest in farm/farmland. Land baron can buy all the land they want under his individual name or closely held entities. Small people that have to pool the money together through corporations can't buy land. For the small guy big corporations or greedy family corporations are all the same thing.


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