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ND Farmers Union seeks to intervene in lawsuit

The North Dakota Farmers Union is hoping it will be able to intervene in a lawsuit filed by the North Dakota Farm Bureau to get the state's anti-corporate farming law overturned.

North Dakota Farmers Union President Mark Watne says attorneys for NDFU filed a motion Thursday in U.S. District Court to intervene on the side of the state of North Dakota in the North Dakota Farm Bureau’s lawsuit. Masaki Ova / Sun file photo
North Dakota Farmers Union President Mark Watne says attorneys for NDFU filed a motion Thursday in U.S. District Court to intervene on the side of the state of North Dakota in the North Dakota Farm Bureau’s lawsuit. Masaki Ova / Sun file photo
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The North Dakota Farmers Union is hoping it will be able to intervene in a lawsuit filed by the North Dakota Farm Bureau to get the state's anti-corporate farming law overturned.

NDFU President Mark Watne said attorneys for NDFU filed a motion Thursday in U.S. District Court to intervene on the side of the state of North Dakota in the Farm Bureau's lawsuit. The Farm Bureau filed a lawsuit on June 2 to abolish the state's anti-corporate farming laws.

The suit was filed weeks before state voters overwhelmingly rejected a law passed by the state Legislature in 2015 that loosened the state's anti-corporate farming laws related to dairy and swine herd operations.

If allowed to intervene, Farmers Union will be able to participate in the ongoing litigation because the outcome of it directly affects NDFU and its members.

NDFU has led the effort to keep the state's anti-corporate farming laws as they are now. Watne said NDFU was waiting until issues about clarifications with the lawsuit sought by North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem were settled.

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"The court ruled the clarifications were fine," he said.

In an August Associated Press story about the North Dakota Farm Bureau's lawsuit, Stenehjem said the lawsuit was too vague for him to respond to, and he had asked U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland to order the Farm Bureau's attorney to specifically detail why the law is unconstitutional.

Now that the suit has been clarified, Watne said now was the time for NDFU to file its intervention motion.

Darly Lies, president of the North Dakota Farm Bureau's Board of Directors, could not be reached for comment. Lies wrote in an opinion column issued to media around North Dakota in June when the lawsuit was filed that North Dakota's anti-corporate farming laws were forcing farm families to make business management decisions that other businesses are not being forced to make. He wrote in the column that the North Dakota Farm Bureau believes the anti-corporate farming laws are discriminatory and unconstitutional.

Lies wrote that the heart of the issue is the question of if the state of North Dakota should be able to pick "winners and losers" between business entities. He wrote the court system is the appropriate place to settle this question.

Watne said Wednesday that NDFU wants to keep the state's anti-corporate farming laws as they are because the state's voters have already spoken on the issue.

"We live in a democracy and the citizens of this state should be able to choose how the businesses in this state function," he said.

Related Topics: NORTH DAKOTA
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