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Published August 17, 2011, 10:27 AM

UPDATE: Measure to restrict ND farming regulation ready

BISMARCK, N.D. — Supporters of a proposed constitutional amendment that would restrict regulation of North Dakota farming and ranching may begin gathering the 27,000 signatures they need on petitions to put the idea on the ballot, Secretary of State Al Jaeger said Tuesday.

By: Dale Wetzel, Associated Press

BISMARCK, N.D. — Supporters of a proposed constitutional amendment that would restrict regulation of North Dakota farming and ranching may begin gathering the 27,000 signatures they need on petitions to put the idea on the ballot, Secretary of State Al Jaeger said Tuesday.

The amendment would add two sentences to the North Dakota Constitution: “The right of farmers and ranchers to engage in modern farming and ranching practices shall be forever guaranteed in this state. No law shall be enacted which abridges the right of farmers and ranchers to employ agricultural technology, modern livestock production and ranching practices.”

The amendment's supporters need to get signatures from at least 26,904 North Dakota voters by next Aug. 8 to put the measure on the November 2012 ballot. The minimum number represents 4 percent of North Dakota's population, as counted in the 2010 census.

Eric Aasmundstad, president of the North Dakota Farm Bureau, which is backing the proposal, said the organization planned to hold regional training sessions for petition carriers. Aasmundstad is chairman of the initiative's sponsoring committee.

“It's just a long process,” he said Tuesday. “We're going to be putting our nose to the grindstone.”

Aasmundstad said the group hopes to reach its goal in late July 2012, after the close of the North Dakota State Fair. This year's fair was canceled because of Souris River flooding.

The National Conference of State Legislatures said no state has a constitutional amendment similar to what the Farm Bureau is proposing. Skeptics say its wording, which Aasmundstad said is deliberately broad, could be used to block reasonable regulation of agriculture.

Aasmundstad disputed those arguments, saying he believes the amendment is needed to head off North Dakota's consideration of legislation adopted in other states. Among other things, the Farm Bureau opposes measures requiring minimum cage sizes for egg-laying hens, breeding sows and veal calves.

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