ND anti-corporate farm bill sent back to committee
BISMARCK, N.D. -- A bill designed to boost North Dakota's dairy and swine industries by easing the state's anti-corporate farming law was sent back to committee March 13 after the North Dakota Farmers Union raised concerns it would permit only la...
BISMARCK, N.D. -- A bill designed to boost North Dakota's dairy and swine industries by easing the state's anti-corporate farming law was sent back to committee March 13 after the North Dakota Farmers Union raised concerns it would permit only large corporate-owned operations and discriminate against medium- and small-sized family farmers.
The House was slated to consider Senate Bill 2351 for approval March 13, but the bill was pulled off the calendar and sent back to the House Agriculture Committee.
As amended by the committee last week, the bill would allow a domestic corporation or limited liability company to own a dairy farm or swine production facility as long as it's on 640 acres or less and the facility begins operations within three years from the date the land is acquired.
A third provision would have required the facility be permitted as a "concentrated animal feeding operation" by the state Department of Health and consist of at least 50 cows or at least 500 swine.
The committee's chairman, Rep. Dennis Johnson, R-Devils Lake, said after the full House adopted the amendments Thursday, the North Dakota Farmers Union raised concerns to lawmakers that the language would allow corporate investment only in large operations.
"I didn't want that to be a concern in debate on the floor," he said.
The committee met Friday afternoon and voted 8-4 to approve an amendment requiring that the facility be permitted as "an animal feeding operation or as a concentrated animal feeding operation."
Karl Rockeman, the health department's director of water quality, explained that concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are a subset of animal feeding operations (AFOs) and must meet additional criteria. Johnson said CAFOs must be inspected annually, while AFOs must be inspected every five years.
Richard Schlosser, a lobbyist for North Dakota Farmers Union, said the organization still opposes the bill with the amendments, based on its long-held stance that only family farmers should be allowed to own farms. The state's current anti-corporate farming law, which dates back to 1932, allows for family corporations and LLCs with up to 15 related shareholders.
Supporters of the bill note that North Dakota is one of nine states with anti-corporate farming laws and the only state without a livestock exemption.
Johnson said he expects the House to consider the amendment on Monday and, if it's approved, to vote on the bill as a whole.
If the House approves the amended bill, it will return to the Senate, which passed the bill 27-18 on Feb. 20. Johnson said based on his conversations with the bill's sponsors, he expects the Senate will concur with the House amendments, avoiding the need for a conference committee.