In a victory for family farmers and local communities, North Dakota voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly upheld their state's rules prohibiting corporate farming.
According to the North Dakota Secretary of State, fully 75 percent of voters cast ballots against Measure 1, which would have loosened century-old corporate farming restrictions. North Dakota is one of nine states that has such a law on the books.
Last year, the North Dakota State Legislature passed SB 2351, which would have allowed corporate ownership of swine and dairy operations. Opponents of SB 2351 said the law was "an invitation to large, out-of-state companies to set up operations in North Dakota," as the New York Times wrote.
"With corporate farming, they just don't have the connections," Laurie Wagner, whose husband's grandparents started their farm in the 1930s, told the Times this month. "They could buy up all the land, and it means nothing to them. They could make it impossible for people like us to compete."
With that in mind, the North Dakota Farmers Union (NDFU) set about collecting more than 20,000 signatures to put the referendum on the ballot. Measure 1 was the result of that effort.
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"We always believed that the people of North Dakota would agree that the family farm structure is best for our state's economy and our communities," said Mark Watne, NDFU president, on Tuesday night. "The results tonight are a strong message that the people don't want corporate farming in North Dakota."
According to North Dakotans for Family Farms, which also campaigned against Measure 1, SB 2351 would have meant "that corporate dairy and swine operations could have":
- No tie to the farm or ranch
- No tie to the community
- Limitless shareholders
- Shareholders who are not related
- Shareholders who are not engaged in the farm or ranch operations
"From the minute this law passed, we saw tremendous grassroots support to overturn the law," Watne added. "People were fired up, and they did not want this dangerous law to go into effect."
Still, the fight is not over. AgWeek notes, "the North Dakota Farm Bureau has filed suit in federal court, attempting to overturn the entire anti-corporate farming law as discriminatory and contrary to the federal constitution. That suit will start in federal district court in Bismarck and likely take a year or two to go through the court."