Audio: Farm Bureau President Says Agriculture Wasn’t “at the Table” for New State Environmental Agency


The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, led by Chairwoman Jessica Unruh, R-Beulah, begins discussing a bill related to minerals under the Missouri River and Lake Sakakawea on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017. Amy Dalrymple/Forum News Service

“Senate Bill 2327 would transfer the powers of the Environmental Health Section in the North Dakota Department of Health to a new Department of Environmental Quality, its leader being a member of the governor’s Cabinet,” my colleague John Hageman reports.

The idea behind the bill, introduced by coal country Senator Jessica Unruh (R-Beulah), is to ensure that North Dakota maintains its primacy when it comes to environmental regulations. Given that our state economy is dominated by the agriculture and energy industries, that makes sense.

But one of the largest groups representing agriculture in North Dakota say they weren’t consulted about the bill at all.

“Agriculture is still the number one industry in the state,” North Dakota Farm Bureau President Daryl Lies told me in an interview on Friday, “and we weren’t notified until after this got introduced.”

He warned that the bill could create a “whole ‘nother monster.”

He likened the new state agency this bill would create to a sort of state-level iteration of the federal EPA, and warned that we could see mission creep.

“When we create these agencies…people tend to want to keep them busy,” he said, adding that we “should be careful what we ask for.”

Here’s the full audio of the interview:

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