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Published November 25, 2013, 09:47 AM

ND Stockmen opposes proposed conservation funding ammendment

Poorly defined programs will impede agriculture.

By: Jason Zahn, Agweek

Farmers and ranchers are good stewards of the land, working hard to make a living and putting food on the world’s table. As a cow-calf producer, I’m worried about the proposed constitutional amendment that takes 5 percent of our state’s oil extraction tax and mandates the spending of some $200 million a biennium on ill-defined conservation programs. We are already spending more than $130 million a biennium on a wide variety of conservation and related projects.

The North Dakota Stockmen’s Association is among more than 20 organizations in a broad-based coalition opposing this proposed measure. We object to the mandated spending of 75 percent of all revenue collected, whether or not there are quality projects or needs.

We oppose the idea that money from this fund could be used by nonprofit groups to buy land that will end up driving up rural land prices and make it more difficult for agricultural producers to compete. It would also divert billions of dollars of state funds that could be spent on other critical needs, such as schools, tax relief and our many infrastructure challenges.

The farmers and ranchers of North Dakota are very supportive of responsible conservation.

But this measure would allow government to compete with private farmers and ranchers — and that we don’t need.

Editor’s note: Zahn is president of the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association.

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