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Tribal advocates keep up legal pressure for fair political maps; 12-member jury sworn in for Trump's historic criminal trial; the importance of healthcare decision planning; and a debt dilemma: poll shows how many people wrestle with college costs.

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Civil rights activists say a court ruling could end the right to protest in three southern states, a federal judge lets January 6th lawsuits proceed against former President Trump, and police arrest dozens at a Columbia University Gaza protest.

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Rural Wyoming needs more vocational teachers to sustain its workforce pipeline, Ohio environmental advocates fear harm from a proposal to open 40-thousand forest acres to fracking and rural communities build bike trail systems to promote nature, boost the economy.

Renewed Debate Over ND's Anti-Corporate Farming Law Underway

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Tuesday, January 31, 2023   

For the second time in nearly a decade, North Dakota is considering changes to a longstanding law that blocks corporate ownership of farms. With lawmakers now hearing debate, both sides of the issue are laying out arguments. Governor Doug Burgum's administration is behind the proposed changes, arguing the state isn't competitive in livestock production. The bill would add ownership exemptions for certain feedlot operations.

Mark Watne, president of the North Dakota Farmers Union, said not only would it deplete the number of independent producers around the state, but also push profits to out-of-state companies. He added there should instead be focus on solutions within North Dakota's state lines.

"What we need to do is build processing plants, we need to find markets, we need to shore up the supply chain where our farmers and ranchers can make a little bit more money - and then we will grow animals in the state," Watne said. It really comes down to economics."

Opponents also contend farmers can build up ownership by forming cooperatives. A key change in the proposal involves removing swine, dairy, poultry and cattle feeding from the definition of a farm or ranch. Opening a window for corporations to partner with farmers can reverse North Dakota's decline in livestock production and complement its other agricultural output, Burgum's staff has contended.

Watne said the approach sought by the governor and other state leaders has had devastating effects in other states, pointing to a major loss of independent farmers in Oklahoma. He said corporate ownership of agricultural land is bad business for smaller producers.

"So, if you've got somebody rooting chickens or hogs today," Watne said, "they're not going to have a really good place to market unless they sign in with these folks and then they're at the mercy of whatever they come up with for contracts."

He and other opponents noted North Dakota voters overwhelmingly overturned similar changes approved in 2015. Other supporters of the bill include the North Dakota Corn Growers Association, which has said the changes would provide more market opportunities for its members for livestock feed. The plan would still maintain strong restrictions on corporate ownership, the group has also argued. The bill's language sets a limit of 160 acres.

Disclosure: North Dakota Farmers Union contributes to our fund for reporting on Rural/Farming. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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