Katie Heger Column: The Ag Commissioner Isn't Just For Farmers And Ranchers


We live in an era where we are busy doing what we do and tending to what hits closest to home. We find ourselves running out of hours in the day and stretching to keep our head above water. For those of us in agriculture we may tap into bits and pieces of ag news that come across the TV screen, email, even Facebook and Twitter; yet we aren’t always on top of what is happening in our state or nation, let alone our state’s Department of Agriculture.

And so you ask, if that is so, then why should the general public care about what is happening in an office in a tall building in Bismarck called the Capital? Well, because what happens there and the decisions made by the Agricultural Commissioner effect our lives on a daily basis! This elected position is responsible for work and decisions with plants, animals, insects, disease, water, land, people, education, energy, trade, research, property rights, business, regulation, and much more. S/he has the responsibility to ensure that they are promoting the economy, utilizing our tax money/ state funds responsibility, staging a plan for the future, protecting North Dakotans while ensuring research, technology, education, training and an opportunity for growth and prosperity exist.

So, what do these things have to do with the non-agricultural sector? To be honest, it has everything to do with all of us! We all like to eat. We enjoy being outside and partaking in recreation. We like to make our own decisions about what we do with our property. We enjoy the economic well-being from a prosperous agricultural economy. We care about the option to buy local goods. We want our children to be accurately informed about our state’s oldest industry and heritage, as well as, modern farming and ranching practices. In addition, we care about having a state that takes seriously the welfare of its people. These all fall under responsibilities of the Ag Commissioner and the 80+ commissions and/or boards s/he sits on.

Currently, there is some dispute as to whether or not the current Ag Commissioner is listening to what is wanted by the people. It appears that Commissioner Goehring is listening to the squeakiest wheel. He is jeopardizing the ability for small business to operate by passing policy that increases regulation, expense, and imposes excessive restrictions. Commissioner Goehring has also put private property rights into the hands of the general public and environmental groups and agencies. Additionally, he has welcomed the Humane Society of the United States into North Dakota by trying to strike a deal and by not supporting a constitutional amendment implying that he doesn’t support protecting farming and ranching practices. Additionally, it has been reported that his personal judgment and public comments are not thought through. He is acting on impulse and emotion; two things that will put North Dakota at a disadvantage today and into the future. Commissioner Goehring, in my opinion has made decisions that are not in the best interest of North Dakota.

When an elected official is no longer meeting the needs or doing what is deemed appropriate, it is time for a changing of the guard. It is time for someone new to step out and step up and that is just what has happened. Judy Estenson, a lifetime farmer and rancher, wife, mother and nurse has decided that it is time for a change. She will be seeking the republican nomination of Sunday, April 6th, 2014. Judy believes that less government is best, that fiscal responsibility, and preservation of personal and property rights is of utmost importance. Judy stands firm in her conservative beliefs and openly shares that it is time to pull back the reins on over burdensome government, to protect agriculture from outside forces who oppose accepted practices, and work to provide opportunities so that all sectors of agriculture can thrive! At the top of her list of imperative qualifications for the Commissioner position is being active, listening, and responding adequately to concerns. Judy knows that the position of Agricultural Commissioner is one of service, teamwork and hard work. Three things that she has proven she is good at with her experience and journey of being a mom, wife, farmer and having a successful off farm career.

So, you may still ask, “What does the Ag Commissioner have to do with me?” and I simply say, “Everything!”

This position interacts with all other governmental departments. This position works to ensure our freedoms, economic opportunities, and the future of things such as food, land, recreation, education and energy. It provides a service for all, protection for all, and a future for us and all that come after.

I now ask you, “What do you have to do with the Agriculture Department and what kind of Commissioner do you want in office?” You get to vote. You get to decide what the future will hold. I ask that you take the time to get to know what is important to you, our state and others around you. Don’t let the future slip away.

For more information:

Judy Estenson’s website


ND Depatrment of Agriculture