Farmer's Union Busing In Activists To Protest Corporate Farming Rollback

In what is a bit of a sea change in agriculture policy here in North Dakota the Legislature rolled back a part of the state’s 83-year-old corporate farming ban. Under the new law, which Governor Jack Dalrymple signed today, swine and dairy farmers can now enjoy incorporation among non-family members (the ban previously prohibited corporations among non-family members for all types of farming).

Surprisingly, the Legislature passed this rollback by wide margins, and the North Dakota Farmer’s Union which promised to put up a fight on the issue took something of a flogging over it.

Now that the bill has been signed into law (it’ll take effect later this summer), the NDFU is busing in activists for a rally at the state capitol protesting the it. The  You can see a flyer a SAB reader sent in. Apparently former North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Roger Johnson, who is now the NDFU national president, will be on hand to rally the left-wing ag group.

It seems a little strange that the NDFU would stage this rally after the bill passed, but I suspect that maybe they weren’t thinking it would pass this easy. In fact, I think they better talk to their lobbyists, because it kind of seems like they dropped the ball.

Which isn’t to say that there isn’t still a purpose to be served here. There is talk of referring the law to the ballot.

The law gives petitioners 90 days from the day legislation is filed with the Secretary of State (which should be today’s date) to get a petition approved, signed by the requisite number of eligible voters, and turned back in.

So they’d need 13,452 signatures by Thursday, June 18, by my reckoning. The referendum would then be voted on at the next regularly-scheduled statewide election which wouldn’t be until June 2016, or the Governor has the option of calling a special election. The law would not take effect until after the referendum is settled by voters.

This would be a risky political move by the NDFU. Frankly, they already look a little impotent given the drubbing they took on this issue in the Legislature. If they try to refer the law and fail the group is going to be further marginalized.

Any group with the resources to bus in activists for a rally can certainly buy their way onto the ballot with professional petitioners and organizers, but I’m not sure that North Dakota is quite as populist today as in years past.

We’ll find out, I suppose.

2015-03-20

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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