North Dakota Votes to Ease Corporate Farming Ban


by Mike Nowatzki, Grand Forks Herald

BISMARCK – Senate Republicans passed a bill Friday that backers hope will boost North Dakota’s struggling dairy and swine industries by partially lifting the state’s anti-corporate farming law.

Senate Bill 2351 was approved 27-18 after lengthy debate, with all 14 Democrats present and four Republicans voting against it. It now goes to the House.

“Both these industries need our support before they’re lost altogether in North Dakota,” said Sen. Joe Miller, R-Park River, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, which had voted 4-2 along party lines to recommend the bill’s passage.

North Dakota is one of nine states with anti-corporate farming laws and the only state without a livestock exemption, supporters said.

The bill would allow a non-family corporation or limited liability company to own and operate a dairy or swine production facility on no more than 640 acres, or 1 square mile.

Sen. Terry Wanzek, R-Jamestown, a farmer and the bill’s lead sponsor, said the “small exemption” would be similar to laws in Minnesota and South Dakota, which have seen dairy production grow as North Dakota’s has dropped by more than 40 percent since 2002.

Wanzek said few family farmers want to take on the financial risk and labor demands of starting a dairy without assistance, and the main barrier is lack of access to equity capital that corporations could provide.

“We’ve tried everything, and our dairies continue to freefall in numbers where we will not have a dairy industry if we wait much longer,” he said.

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Source:  Grand Fork Herald

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