Jun 15, 2016

North Dakota Beats Big Ag Three-to-One in Citizens' Referendum

 "North Dakotans overwhelmingly rejected a haphazard law
passed by the state legislature to open the floodgates
to corporate farming," celebrates the Dakota Resource Council.
(North Dakota Secretary of State election results)
Corporate Ag is not interested in a show of hands, but North Dakota citizens are.

North Dakota citizens blocked a measure allowing industrialized agriculture to organize and consolidate factory farms using a corporate business model that would destroy family farming in North Dakota, following the trend in other states.

Voters passed referendum measure One, with over a three-to-one majority, 99,045 votes (75.70 percent) to 31,787 votes (24.30 percent).

The measure legally rejects a corporate-backed law passed last year.

Citizens used the North Dakota initiative process to reject a pending state statute backed by Big Agricultural interests and passed and signed into law last year.

The rejection in family-farmer friendly North Dakota was expected, and shines a light on the predatory nature of proliferating, industrialized agriculture that is destroying family farms across the country.

There are over 30,000 family-operated farms and ranches in North Dakota, (Bosman, New York Times).

The law overturned by North Dakota voters would have allowed corporate ownership of dairy and swine facilities on up to 640 acres of land, (Center for Rural Affairs).

Republican state governments, sometimes with the help of some Democratic Party officials, are engaged in pushing state laws and other initiatives to increase foreign ownership of American corporate agricultural entities on up to 640 acres of land.

In 2014, reports emerged from Wisconsin showing the Republican governor and the Republican attorney general working to allow foreign ownership of up to 640 acres of agricultural land, the same measure of land North Dakota would have given corporations the right to own and sell, (Ivey, The Capital Times), (Mal Contends).

Communities surrounding corporate ag operations, (called CAFOs), are fighting back but often face uphill battles against heavily funded corporate ag operations, and politicians whose allegiance Big Ag purchases.

Big Ag will litigate Measure One which now has the force of law.

"The North Dakota Farm Bureau, a lobbying organization that has farmer members, has adopted an alternative tactic in case the new law is defeated that takes aim at the 1932 law banning corporate farming. Earlier this month, it filed a federal lawsuit seeking to overturn the law, arguing that it is discriminatory and unconstitutional," (Bosman, New York Times).

If the massively polluting industrialized agricultural model of corporate ag is held accountable to communities and citizens, the popular sentiment in North Dakota may signal the need for a lot of lawyers for Big Ag.

"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, North Dakota Farmers Union president. "The results tonight are a strong message that the people don’t want corporate farming in North Dakota," (Pates, Grand Forks Herald).

From the Dakota Resource Council (DRC):

BISMARCK, ND— DRC members and allies celebrated a victory on Tuesday night after North Dakotans overwhelmingly rejected a haphazard law passed by the state legislature to open the floodgates to corporate farming.

:It was a hard-fought campaign and we worked diligently to educate North Dakotans and turn them out to vote. We are very pleased with the result," said DRC Chair Craig Scott, who lives in Burleigh County. "The fight is not over, and we will continue organizing and building people power to make North Dakota a great place to live."

Since 1932, North Dakota’s anti-corporate farming law has facilitated the growth of one of the strongest agricultural economies in the world. Measure 1 was a referral of SB 2351, a law rushed through the 2015 legislative session by proponents of corporate farming in an attempt to increase the number of cows and pigs in North Dakota. The law would have allowed non-family corporate ownership of land for concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs).

"This may have increased the number of animals but it would have decreased the number of family farmers and squeezed the wealth out of rural communities," said DRC member Father Tom Graner of Pierce County. "People in North Dakota made it clear they understand the dangers of corporations running our farms."

The defeat of Measure 1 is a testament to the power of ordinary people standing up and making their voices heard. DRC investigated what happens in other states with corporate agriculture operations and found stories of destruction, intimidation, and devaluation.

"Throughout other parts of our country that allow corporate farming, it is very clear that large confinement dairy and hog operations do not increase rural employment or promote rural economic development," said DRC member Jeri Lynn Bakken of Adams County, responding to the impacts of corporate farming on other states. "Corporate feeding operations employ far fewer and lower-paid workers than the family farmers that they inevitably displace."

In the shadow of the campaign against corporate farming and Measure 1, the town of Buffalo, ND is dealing with a proposed 9,000-hog factory. This is precisely the type of so-called animal agriculture North Dakotans rejected by voting No on Measure 1. A county-level approval decision is still pending. The full suite of videos, plus more information about Measure 1 and anti-corporate farming efforts, is available at http://drcinfo.org/familyfarms.

Although the anti-corporate farming law is supported by an overwhelming majority of North Dakotans, there are still people working to attack it. A few weeks ago, the North Dakota Farm Bureau filed a federal lawsuit to challenge the popular and effective anti-corporate farming law. That was a last ditch effort to try to undermine democracy and the will of North Dakotans.

"Men like my grandfather understood the way to build strong communities was to ensure family farmers owned the land they worked and lived in the communities they served," said Bakken. "By rejecting corporate farming, North Dakota becomes the trendsetter for a non-corporate model of modern agriculture that people around the country, and even the world, will want to emulate."
See also CAFO: The Tragedy of Industrial Animal Factories.

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