ND amendment would protect farming, advocate saysBISMARCK, N.D. — The North Dakota Farm Bureau believes a state constitutional amendment is needed to prevent the Legislature or local governments from approving potentially harmful restrictions on farming and ranching, its president said Tuesday.
By: Dale Wetzel, Associated Press
BISMARCK, N.D. — The North Dakota Farm Bureau believes a state constitutional amendment is needed to prevent the Legislature or local governments from approving potentially harmful restrictions on farming and ranching, its president says.
The proposed ballot initiative, which the Farm Bureau hopes to put on the November 2012 statewide ballot, would add language to the North Dakota Constitution to block any law “which abridges the right of farmers and ranchers to employ agricultural technology, modern livestock production and ranching practices.”
The amendment's supporters need to turn in at least 26,904 petition signatures by Aug. 8, 2012, to have a chance to qualify for the general election ballot. The minimum number of names represents 4 percent of North Dakota's population, as counted by the 2010 census.
Farm Bureau President Eric Aasmundstad said Tuesday the amendment was intended to stop laws that he described as potentially ruinous to agriculture, which is North Dakota's largest industry.
He cited a California ballot measure, approved by voters in November 2008, that prevents keeping veal calves, breeding sows and egg-laying hens in small crates or cages. The legislation takes effect in 2015.
Scott Hendrick, an agricultural policy specialist for the National Conference of State Legislatures in Denver, said he knew of no other state with a law or constitutional amendment similar to what the North Dakota Farm Bureau is proposing.
A number of states, including North Dakota, have so-called “right to farm” laws, which shield farmers and ranchers from lawsuits in cases when residential development occurs nearby and the new neighbors object to the noise and odor of an agricultural operation, Hendrick said.
The Farm Bureau amendment “appears to be written a little bit more broadly,” he said.
Joe Maxwell, a hog farmer in Audrain County, Mo., in central Missouri, said the amendment would “clearly prevent any reasonable regulation” of agriculture. Maxwell is director of rural development and outreach for the Humane Society of the United States and a former Missouri lieutenant governor.
“If you wanted to have some kind of zoning or setback provisions for hog (waste) lagoons ... you would not be able to have those in the future,” Maxwell said. “This would allow, I think, for a very broad sweep of large, corporate factory farms to pretty much do whatever they want.”
Aasmundstad said the amendment was written broadly so that it would apply to future technological advancements in agriculture. He said it would not prevent regulation of farming and ranching operations by local governing boards or the state Legislature.
“This isn't about letting farmers go out and do anything they want, any time they want,” Aasmundstad said. “What this really says, and our intent is, that agriculture will not be held back. Agriculture is also not going to do anything to alienate our customers.”