Bill to allow corporate farming passes ND House

Published: Feb. 21, 2023 at 7:58 PM CST
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - It might be said that North Dakota is a place where things largely stay the same: that’s especially true for agriculture. But things might change very soon.

For almost 90 years, North Dakota has had a law that prevents corporate farming, which prohibits people who aren’t related from owning and operating farming operations together. But Tuesday, there were signs that the nearly 100-year-old ban could be coming to an end.

Some lawmakers see corporate farming as an existential threat.

“Please join me in voting red. Not because you’re against business, but because you want to keep family farms for the next generation in North Dakota,” said Representative Dawson Holle, R-Mandan.

Representative Holle was opposed to House Bill 1371. If it becomes law, it would allow people to build corporations in animal agriculture in North Dakota. Each corporation would be limited to 160 acres and someone who lives and works in North Dakota must maintain majority ownership.

“This is a good bill. This has been well thought-out and put a lot of people at the table. This isn’t 2015, because we were at an adversarial relationship before. Now we’re all working together, please vote green,” said Representative Mike Lefor, R-Dickinson.

One group that’s no longer adversarial? North Dakota Farmers Union. They’ve opposed nearly every other change to corporate farming law and even arranged a referendum effort in 2016 after the Legislature passed a similar corporate farming bill. But now, they’ve taken a neutral position.

“This is one corporate farming bill I can support and I’m going to, because we’ve made everybody a partner in producing the best result that we can,” said Representative Jon Nelson, R-Rugby.

Still, many were hesitant.

“I really think we’re going against the will of the people, I don’t think this is what North Dakota’s people really want. As was reflected in the measure they passed just seven short years ago,” said Representative Jeff Hoverson, R-Minot.

The bill passed by a vote of 74-20. Next, it heads to the Senate.

Previous Coverage: Lawmakers reconsider corporate farming to address livestock declines

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

Previous Coverage: Corporate farming bill back in the Legislature; mixed support