Farmers at KMOT Ag Expo discuss corporate farming bill ahead of this week’s hearings

Published: Jan. 25, 2023 at 9:01 PM CST
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MINOT, N.D (KMOT) – Farming in North Dakota is often a family tradition passed down from one generation to the next.

The North Dakota Century Code regarding farming ownership reflects this tradition, but a bill being considered by state lawmakers could change the structure.

It’s an issue that has everyone weighing in, from farmers to the governor himself.

The future of farm ownership in North Dakota may be at a crossroads.

Matt Perdue, the government relations director at North Dakota Farmer’s Union, said House Bill 1371 removes poultry, dairy, swine and cattle raising from the definition of farming and ranching. He said it would open up corporate farm ownership.

Farmers and ranchers like Adam Opland said they would have trouble competing.

”Corporate is going to have way more money than we do, so the family farmer is not going to be able to farm anymore,” said Opland.

However, Daryl Lies, president of the North Dakota Farm Bureau, said current farm laws don’t protect farmers from going out of business.

”I think that our agricultural landscape can expand greatly, and every farmer and rancher has the opportunity to benefit from it if they chose to. You don’t have to be forced into doing this,” said Lies.

Lies said there are differences between Limited Liability Partnership and Limited Liability Corporate structures. Both have distinct rules of engagement with the market.

In his State of the State address earlier this month, Gov. Doug Burgum, R-ND, said North Dakota’s animal agriculture output is underwhelming compared to neighboring states.

”The field is so uneven when it comes to capital access and capital formation,” said Burgum.

Burgum also said it would allow farmers to compete, but Perdue said it could crush family farmer producers in the state.

”We’re opening the door to those entities that already control one piece of the supply chain moving into the production piece in North Dakota,” said Perdue.

Perdue said their members are cautious that it would create too much consolidation if a company controls every aspect of a supply chain.

Opland said he doesn’t know how many farmers are for the bill, but when the time comes, he’s voting no.

As for Lies, he said he would like to have the option to choose between different business routes.

Governor Burgum will join Ag Commissioner Doug Goehring and a group of state lawmakers in discussing the bill at a special press conference Thursday at 12:15 p.m. at the Capitol.

The bill’s hearing will be Friday at 9:30 a.m. at the Capitol.