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North Dakota Agri-Women president Jenna Kyllo, at the podium, addresses guests of the Harvest of Knowledge event Friday morning in Grand Forks.

Women promoting ag: Group builds support, understanding

GRAND FORKS, N.D. — In 1978, when Jimmy Carter was president and Ramona Hage was a freshman in high school, her father bought a central Nevada cattle ranch. That launched a nearly four-decade-long battle — with the final outcome still undecided — between the Hage family and what she portrays as heavy-handed federal regulators.

Federal agencies "are doing everything in their power to basically eradicate the western (U.S.) ranchers. My mom and dad were probably some of the first who were truly targeted to take their property, basically, without compensation," said Hage, executive director of the Liberty & Property Rights Coalition.

Hage spoke at the 35th annual Harvest of Knowledge Oct. 27 in Grand Forks. The event, sponsored by North Dakota Agri-Women and Minnesota Agri-Women, featured speakers, networking opportunities and an ag fair. About 150 area women involved in agriculture attended.

Hage's family, which runs a cow-calf operation that includes grazing on federally administered land, has faced regulatory opposition from the beginning, she said.

"Within the first year of buying that ranch, they (her parents) found themselves in the middle of a complete onslaught, a complete attack," from federal regulators, she said.

The long fight between the Hage family and regulators has entered the courts a number of times. Some judges have ruled in favor of the Hage family, while others rules against it.

"All we wanted was for the courts to recognize the laws that Congress has passed and to recognize our rights under those laws," Hage said.

The Hage family is optimistic the U.S. Supreme Court will take up one of the cases, Hage said.

Over time, federal regulators have assumed too much power — power they're unwilling to give up, she said.

"That's why organizations such as these organizations (Minn. and N.D. Agri-Women) are so important. Because we do have a voice, and women in particular do have a great voice, in my opinion, to start pushing back," Hage said.

Largest in nation

American Agri-Women, which has more than 40,000 members, is the nation's largest coalition of farm, ranch and agribusiness women. It has more than 50 state, commodity and agribusiness affiliate organizations throughout the country and have advocated for agriculture since it was established in 1974.

Members include farmers and ranchers, as well as women involved in other aspects of agriculture. The organization benefits when women in many different roles, such as agronomists and bookkeepers, participate in it, said Jenna Kyllo, of Larimore, N.D., president of North Dakota Agri-Women, which has about 50 members.

Agri-Women members are involved in legislative and regulatory issues at the local, state and national levels. They're also active in student and consumer education — initiating the Ag in the Classroom program nationally, among other achievements.

Among the organization's current projects is the "Ag Day is Every Day" campaign, or #AgDay365, which seeks to help Americans better understand that "just about every hour of every day has a connection to agriculture," said Karolyn Zurn, a Callaway, Minn., and president of Minnesota Agri-Women, which has about 160 members.

Minnesota Agri-Women, with help from North Dakota Agri-Women, is sponsoring the national group's annual convention Nov. 15-19 in Bloomington, Minn., Zurn said.

She encouraged anyone interested in agriculture to attend.

More information on #agday365: https://americanagriwomen.org/agday-365/.

More information on the 2017 national convention:

https://americanagriwomen.org/national-convention/.

To learn more about American Agri-Women, visit www.americanagriwomen.org/.

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