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N.D. Ag Coalition joins opposition to Clean Water amendment

BISMARCK – The North Dakota Ag Coalition has voted unanimously to oppose the proposed Clean Water, Wildlife and Parks Amendment that would create a conservation fund using oil tax revenues.

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The Ag Coalition consists of more than 40 organizations with a direct interest in agriculture, including commodity groups, landowners and farmer-owned cooperatives.

Its opposition was announced Thursday in a news release from the Greater North Dakota Chamber, which belongs to a separate coalition of more than 40 business, community, industry and agricultural organizations also trying to defeat the proposed ballot measure.

Sponsors of the constitutional amendment must file at least 26,904 signatures from qualified voters by Wednesday to secure a spot on the Nov. 4 ballot. They have said in recent weeks that they’re on track to collect 40,000 signatures and are confident the measure will make the ballot.

The fund would receive 5 percent of the state’s share of oil extraction tax revenue for use on projects benefiting clean water, flood control, recreational opportunities and wildlife habitat.

Opponents have said the fund would rake in $300 million to $400 million every two years for the next 25 years, while sponsors have used the figure $150 million, though they don’t dispute it could go higher.

Critics argue the amendment’s language is vague and doesn’t specify the types of projects eligible for funding. Ag Coalition Chairman Fred Helbling said the group’s members are concerned the fund could be used to purchase land and take it out of agricultural production.

Supporters say the fund is needed to protect the state’s land, resources and wildlife for future generations against escalating development, including oil and gas development.

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