John Andrist: Is Corporate Farming Really A Bogeyman?


There will be only one statewide measure on the June Primary Election ballot.

It’s a measure passed by the legislature, to amend the state’s long-time prohibition on farming under a corporate ownership structure. It would allow corporations and LLCs to own up to 640 acres for a swine feeding or dairy operation.

I doubt if taxpayers will approve it, because the Farmers Union has mounted a strong and costly campaign urging a no vote. There appears to be no organized yes vote, and the legislature can’t spend money even to explain the reasoning.

I can talk about it pretty objectively, because I truly am undecided.

I’ve generally always been opposed to permitting the land to be bought by a corporation for cultivation purposes.

But our world is changing. When the law was passed farms were small and every small town depended on those farmers for its existence.

Nobody at the time could have conceived that those farms would evolve to be what they are today. Individual farmers could conceivably some day demand the right to organize under a corporate structure.

Indeed the Farm Bureau today is making plans for a court challenge, seeking repeal of that old law on constitutional grounds.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]A yes vote will not significantly hurt us; a no vote won’t significantly hurt us.[/mks_pullquote]

At the same time I know of no large corporation today which has a desire to farm the land. Why would they when a single farmer can farm a whole township with a couple of tractors?

Likewise, those interested in dairy and swine operations seem to figure out a way to do it under a partnership umbrella.

With few exceptions individual farmers and farm families still dominate the world of growing food. And animal enterprises going forward are probably going to be dominated by farm corporations, like it or not, with the exception of cow/calf operations.

It is doubtful that the change approved by the legislature will have any significant impact.

For my part, I would have suggested that the Farmers Union let it go, because I know the legislative process involves a lot of testimony and study of both sides of the issue, something most of us can’t hear.

A yes vote will not significantly hurt us; a no vote won’t significantly hurt us.

If you still can’t decide, vote for whoever you trust most — the legislature or the Farmers Union.

North Dakota has a whole lot more at stake if fracking is banned and the courts let stand the administration’s executive order to put all water collection areas under federal control, meaning when your sloughs and potholes are full, you lose ownership and control.

The bogeyman which keeps threatening me is the growing concept of control of private property.

For me that’s bigger than the bogeyman of those who despair about corporation ownership.

School’s out

When the last school bells of the year rang last week, it made my mind drift back to my own childhood, when the happiest day of the year was that last day of school.

It wasn’t that I hated school. It’s just that the feeling of total freedom sort of infused me with exhilaration.

It was like, now I can be anything and do anything I want for the next three months.

I wondered if today’s kids who live in a world of structured entertainment have that same feeling.

Their choice is scouting camps, athletic camps, swimming instruction, numerous camping opportunities, and exciting activities mostly organized by others.

Ours was self-created — walks to the sand pit for a swim whenever we felt like going, home made rubber guns and rafts and stilts, pickup kitten ball games played on the handiest vacant lot, skipping rocks on any available water.

Some of us were lucky enough to get enough jobs so we could buy our own BB guns.

And bicycles too. Few families could afford a bike for each kid. Ours had to be shared by three of us, but we mastered the art of riding double to maximize our allocated time.

Our boundaries and limitations were controlled only by our bodies, not by rules or supervisors or lifeguards and umpires. Parental controls were far fewer.

All those activities today’s kids enjoy are pretty cool. But then, so were our summer days of unstructured things.