Ag Policy Blog

ND Voters Choose to Keep Corporate Ban on Dairy and Hog Ownership

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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North Dakota voters resoundingly rejected a legislative attempt to loosen the state's corporate farming law with a vote in Tuesday's primary election.

The ballot measure was meant to affirm a bill passed by the North Dakota Legislature that would have allowed corporate ownership of dairy and hog operations. The change would have allowed corporations to own dairy or hog operations on as much as 640 acres. But the North Dakota Farmers Union got more than 20,000 signatures to put the law on the ballot.

According to the North Dakota Secretary of State's office, the corporate farming change failed with nearly 76% of voters, 99,045, going against the measure while just 24% of votes, 31,787, voting to go along with the law change.

North Dakota Farmers Union praised the outcome. “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,” said Mark Watne, NDFU president. “The results tonight are a strong message that the people don’t want corporate farming in North Dakota.”

According to the Fargo Forum, NDFU canvassed the state with 90,000 phone calls and 5,000 home visits to defeat the measure.…

The battle is not over, however. The North Dakota Farm Bureau filed a federal lawsuit earlier this month to challenge the state's anti-corporate farming laws. Farm Bureau argues the laws "are discriminatory and unconstitutional." Farm Bureau also claims the laws hurt family farmers. "We have members - family farmers - who will be forced to divest their family businesses, simply because members of their family farm business are second cousins. Our family farmer members should not be excluded from the benefits of a corporate structure for estate planning, tax management and liability issues associated with managing a family business. While other states around us have vibrant livestock industries as a result of having access to the tools associated with a corporate business model, why should North Dakotans be forced to operate at a disadvantage?"…

Corporate farming laws have been eliminated in different states in recent years. Last year the Nebraska Legislature voted to overturn its ban on packer ownership of hogs.

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