Can the state save rural grocery stores? Lawmakers want to review their options

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With 15 percent of rural North Dakota grocery stores closing in the last five years, the pressure is mounting for some communities. Now, legislators want to see if the state has any role in helping rural grocery stores survive.

“It’s the state’s responsibility to help where they may help, “ said Sen. Jerry Klein, R-Fessenden. “We’re providing a platform for everybody to spend a little time, see if there’s anything we can do. At the end of the day, there may not be anything we can do and we may be frustrated by our outcome. Nevertheless, we’ve had the opportunity to have that discussion.”

People against the study say it's a free market issue. Klein, who owned a grocery store in Fessenden for 35 years, says when stores go away, communities do too.

“We understand that when you lose a grocery store, your community starts dwindling. Your tax base is going to have to go up because people are not staying there, living there and shopping there,” said Klein.

The study only passed by one vote. It will look at the distribution of products to rural communities and how state agencies may play a role.