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ND Farmers Union Blasts New Corporate-Farming Lawsuit

Family-farm advocates say a new lawsuit challenging North Dakota's decades-old corporate-farming ban is a last-ditch effort allow non-family corporations to operate in the state. (iStockphoto)
Family-farm advocates say a new lawsuit challenging North Dakota's decades-old corporate-farming ban is a last-ditch effort allow non-family corporations to operate in the state. (iStockphoto)
June 3, 2016

BISMARCK, N.D. -- A new federal lawsuit over North Dakota's anti-corporate-farming law is getting criticism from family-farm advocates.

The North Dakota Farm Bureau is asking a federal judge to declare the 84-year-old law unconstitutional, just days before North Dakotans vote on ballot Measure 1, which would allow corporate farms in the state. The North Dakota Farmers Union has opposed the measure since it was introduced last year.

Kayla Pulvermacher, director of member advocacy at the North Dakota Farmers Union, said the timing of the lawsuit could be seen as a last-ditch effort by the Farm Bureau to allow non-family corporations to set up hog and dairy operations.

"Basically, we see this a threat that's being given to North Dakota voters," she said. "The timing is interesting. If this wasn't about the measure, why now?"

In a statement, Farm Bureau President Daryl Lies said the lawsuit isn't connected to Measure 1. His group believes the current anti-corporate-farming law is outdated and forces North Dakota to operate at an economic disadvantage.

Pulvermacher is concerned that Measure 1 would consolidate many farms into the hands of just a few large corporations. Considering that some farms have been run by local families for generations, she said, the idea could have long-term negative effects.

"We believe it will be terrible for our state," she said. "We believe that there'll be a lack of investment in local economies, because farmers buy local and they're the fabric of our communities. Corporate farming does not have the same loyalty to the communities that our family farms have."

Ballot Measure 1 gets a public vote on June 14. North Dakota is one of nine states that has limits on corporate farming.

Information on ballot Measure 1 is online at vip.sos.nd.gov.

Brandon Campbell, Public News Service - ND