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OPINION: Family farms could be helped, not threatened, by legislation

NORTHWOOD, N.D -- Questions have been raised in North Dakota about Senate Bill 2351, which has been referred on the June 14 primary ballot. These concerns about the state's family farmers need to be addressed, because the future of agriculture fo...

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NORTHWOOD, N.D - Questions have been raised in North Dakota about Senate Bill 2351, which has been referred on the June 14 primary ballot. 

These concerns about the state’s family farmers need to be addressed, because the future of agriculture for the state is at risk, if the legislation is rejected. Voters at the primary election should reject the referral attempt and let the legislation become law.
Some might say the legislation will destroy family farms, but I think the opposite is true. If SB 2351 is allowed to become law, the future of family farming will become brighter and more secure.
Some of the concerns raised about the family farm issue is because many people don’t understand how family farms have evolved over the years.
When one is discussing a family farm of today, you can’t compare it to the family farm of the past. I am old enough to have grown up with an average family farm being 160 to 320 acres. Today, many of the family farms are thousands of acres.
Trying to describe the typical family farm is difficult. Is it a certain number of acres, or is it a farm operated only by family members? Many have hired employees. Does that disqualify them from being a family farm?
With N.D.’s current family corporation law, we have many grain farms that operate on thousands of acres. With current economics and cost of production, small farms cannot survive. This is especially true of swine and dairy producers.
Matter of survival
North Dakota dairy and swine producers came to the Legislature last session and said something must be done if they are to survive and prosper in the state.
They asked for this bill, and fully support it. It is a matter of survival for their “family” farm.
    In my opinion, the fear corporations would come into the state and buy current family farm acres is baseless.
The bill limits corporations to 640 acres. In most cases, a swine unit likely wants no more than 40 to 80 acres. Land is an expensive investment for them, and purchasing more than needed would mean there would be little, if any, return on investment.
    For dairy production, it might take more acres, but I think these dairies will contract with their farmer-neighbors for nearly all their feed inputs, such as grain and roughages: corn, corn silage and alfalfa.
    The potential partnership between dairy producers and local grain farmers can help grain producers economically survive our current ag financial prices. It could mean millions of dollars to current corn and soybean producers. In fact, it might help save many current family grain farms.
    I look forward to the dialog on this issue. North Dakota leads the nation in the production of many ag raw products, but nearly all of it is exported. 
We not only can produce pork and milk locally, but we can process it in-state, if we all work together.
Editor’s note: Trottier, of Northwood, represents District 19 in the North Dakota House of Representatives.

Related Topics: NORTH DAKOTA
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