New anti-corporate law doesn't discuss 2012 amendment
FARGO, N.D. -- Now that Gov. Jack Dalrymple has signed into law the first significant changes in the state's anti-corporate farming law in 73 years, the question is: Will the law be referred by the North Dakota Farmers Union and like-minded group...
FARGO, N.D. -- Now that Gov. Jack Dalrymple has signed into law the first significant changes in the state's anti-corporate farming law in 73 years, the question is: Will the law be referred by the North Dakota Farmers Union and like-minded groups that oppose the changes.
Unless blocked by a court injunction (unlikely), the law will go into effect. It allows limited nonfarm, nonfamily corporate investors to invest in dairy and hog operations.
Opponents insist the law's restrictions are not sufficient to prevent corporations from owning and operating mega-dairy or hog operations at the expense of traditional family farms. The law's proponents contend the changes are limited, and only will open up sources of capital that, they say, will help family farmers survive and expand.
The reality is less clear. No one really knows what the changes will do to agriculture in North Dakota. No one can say without qualification that either family farms will be hurt or that corporations will rush to invest in dairy herds and hog barns.
But there is another wrinkle in law that has not been discussed. In 2012, voters approved by nearly 67 percent an amendment to the state constitution that reads:
"The right of farmers to engage in modern farming and ranching practices shall be forever guaranteed in this state. No law shall be enacted which abridges the right of farmers and ranchers to employ agricultural technology, modern livestock and ranching practices."
If the phrase "modern livestock and ranching practices" can be construed to mean modern financial tools, such as corporate investments, is the entire 1932 law open to challenge because of the 2012 amendment? Would referral of the dairy and hog changes be moot? Should interests that want to scrap all prohibitions on nonfamily investments in farming investigate a challenge to the old law on constitutional grounds?
A potential investor in North Dakota dairy cows or hogs might want those questions answered before committing a dime.
Editor's note: This editorial originally appeared in the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. The Forum and Agweek are owned by Forum Communications.