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Protecting farmers' rights

VALLEY CITY, ND -- Dawn Pfeifer, communications director for the North Dakota Farm Bureau, is working the 75th North Dakota Winter Show in Valley City as part of the group's "March Madness" push to get petitions signed for a "Right to Farm" vote ...

Dawn Pfeifer and John Jacobson
Dawn Pfeifer, director of communications, and John Jacobson, director of leadership development, for the North Dakota Farm Bureau, were working a booth at the North Dakota Winter Show. The organization has a "March Madness" push to collect signatures for a "Right to Farm" constitutional amendment that would protect current, modern ag practices in the state. They say they're halfway to the goal of nearly 28,000 signatures to put the issue on the ballot in November. (Mikkel Pates, Agweek)

VALLEY CITY, ND -- Dawn Pfeifer, communications director for the North Dakota Farm Bureau, is working the 75th North Dakota Winter Show in Valley City as part of the group's "March Madness" push to get petitions signed for a "Right to Farm" vote in the state.

There are some 200 petition carriers for the initiated constitutional amendment, working throughout the state, Pfeifer says. The Farm Bureau is trying to get each of those to acquire 70 petition signatures during March to get the effort over the top. The total goal is nearly 28,000 signatures, and the organization figures they're halfway there. The petitions must be filed by Aug. 8 with no fewer than 26,904 valid signatures.

"It's trying to protect farming and ranching practices in North Dakota's constitution," Pfeifer says. "We've seen groups like the Humane Society of the United States go into other states and pretty much mess up farming and ranching."

The idea is to allow farmers to use modern practices, or the farming practices they use currently, whether it's technology or docking tails. She says she thinks it probably would protect cattle branding, as it's considered a modern practice at this point although she knows there are new branding practices.

"The right of farmers and ranchers to engage in modern farming and ranching practices shall be forever guaranteed in this state," she says. "No law shall be enacted which abridges the right of farmers and ranchers to employ agricultural technology, modern livestock production and ranching practices."

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Pfeifer says HSUS wants to eliminate accepted farming and ranching practices "with the ultimate goal of getting rid of animal agriculture all together." She couldn't say, however, who decides what a modern farming practice is. "Things that we're doing right now: those are modern practices that are acceptable," she says. She said a constitutional amendment must be broad so it can be open to interpretation if it needs to be. "If, at some point it's decided this practice isn't what we should be doing anymore, and they (decide) let's move to something else, then the new thing becomes the modern practice. It allows for those kinds of things." But she couldn't say who would decide.

She says the right-to-farm protects the rights of farmers of all sizes and types to operate, whether smaller, organic producers, or larger conventional producers.

John Jacobson, director of leadership development for the group, says the vast majority of people he's talked to about the petition are for it. Only a few have criticized it, and usually about it being too vague.

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Mikkel Pates is an agricultural journalist, creating print, online and television stories for Agweek magazine and Agweek TV.
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