Farmers Union gets 21,000-plus signatures to put corporate farming law to voters
BISMARCK - The North Dakota Farmers Union gathered more than 21,000 signatures in its effort to ask voters to reject a bill signed by Gov. Jack Dalrymple in March that would relax the state's anti-corporate farming law for dairy and swine operati...
BISMARCK – The North Dakota Farmers Union gathered more than 21,000 signatures in its effort to ask voters to reject a bill signed by Gov. Jack Dalrymple in March that would relax the state’s anti-corporate farming law for dairy and swine operations, the group’s president said Tuesday.
More than 250 volunteers and Farmers Union staff and members collected the signatures in just 75 days, President Mark Watne said during a press conference at the Capitol. The signatures were submitted to the secretary of state’s office, which must validate 13,452 for the measure to land on the June 2016 ballot.
“This was truly a grassroots effort,” he said.
The 60-member NDFU board of governors voted unanimously March 27 to seek a referendum on Senate Bill 2351. The new law is set to take effect Aug. 1, but a referendum would delay it until after the vote.
It would relax the current anti-corporate farming law approved by voters in 1932 to allow a non-family corporation or limited liability company to own a dairy or swine facility with at least 50 cows or 500 swine on up to 640 acres. The current law allows for family corporations and LLCs with up to 15 related shareholders.
Proponents of the bill have said it will give family farmers access to more capital and stave off the decline in the state’s dairy and swine industries. Opponents argue it would be a fundamental shift that would pit local farmers against outside investors and drive up land prices, and they question whether it would actually boost investment in the two industries.