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Letter: Saddened about measure opposition being misinformed

I was saddened to read Eric Thompson’s recent letter that claimed that farm and ranch groups oppose the Clean Water, Wildlife and Parks Amendment because they are misinformed.

On the contrary, they actively oppose it is because they see with crystal clarity what will happen if this measure becomes part of our state’s constitution.

As a longtime farmer, I’m a big believer in protecting our state’s great outdoors and natural resources. North Dakota’s farmers and ranchers were our state’s first conservationists going back to statehood. But the proposed amendment wildly misses the mark in trying to accomplish that.

Under the amendment, 5 percent of North Dakota’s oil extraction tax would be set aside in a new conservation fund. The amendment requires that between 75 and 90 percent of this fund be spent each year.

The only conservation spending specifically outlined in the measure is that these massive funds — anywhere from $300 to $400 million a biennium based on current oil production projections — could be used to acquire farm land.

If the nonprofit groups supporting it are given millions of dollars every year that they can use to acquire land, it won’t be long before we will see them acquiring and removing land from production agriculture, driving up land prices and making it harder for agriculture to compete, especially new farmers and ranchers.

The measure is also troubling because the groups supporting this amendment have a history of being hostile toward the ag industry, which is still our state’s largest industry. Imagine the impact to our state’s economy and workforce if these groups suddenly have hundreds of millions of dollars to spend to undermine the agriculture industry in the name of conservation.

Let’s be clear folks. The out-of-state groups financially behind this measure would like to change our way of life here in North Dakota and they see the creation of this private fund in our state constitution as their way to do just that.

That, Eric, is why we are against this measure, because we are fully informed. The truths behind this amendment are loud and clear, and that’s why farm and ranch groups have come together in the North Dakotans for Common Sense Conservation coalition to oppose it.

Mark Watne,


President, N.D. Farmers Union