Bill allowing corporate-owned dairy, swine operations on way to governor’s desk
BISMARCK - A bill that would relax an 83-year-old law to allow non-family corporations to own dairy and swine operations in North Dakota is on its way to Gov. Jack Dalrymple's desk.
BISMARCK – A bill that would relax an 83-year-old law to allow non-family corporations to own dairy and swine operations in North Dakota is on its way to Gov. Jack Dalrymple’s desk.
The Senate voted 29-16 Thursday to give final passage to Senate Bill 2351 after accepting changes made in the House, where representatives passed the bill 56-37 on Monday. Senators first approved the bill 27-18 on Feb. 20.
The bill would partially lift the state’s ban on corporate-owned farms to allow a non-family corporation or limited liability company to own a dairy farm or swine production facility on no more than 640 acres of land, or 1 square mile.
The North Dakota Farmers Union, which has more than 40,000 members, has asked Dalrymple to veto the bill. Kayla Pulvermacher, a lobbyist for the group, said its county presidents plan to meet late next week to discuss their next steps, which could include trying to refer the law to voters if Dalrymple signs the bill. Petitioners must gather 13,452 signatures to refer legislation to voters.
Supporters of the bill highlighted that North Dakota is one of nine states with anti-corporate farming laws and the only state without a livestock exemption. They said the bill would foster investment in the state’s struggling swine and dwindling dairy industries while also benefiting grain farmers by providing fertilizer and additional markets for their crops.
“It’s going to hopefully stave off ... that decline in our dairy and swine industry,” said Sen. Joe Miller, R-Park River, who carried the bill. “At this point we need to do something.”
As amended by the House, the bill requires that the dairy or swine operation must commence within three years from the date the land is acquired and must be permitted as an animal feeding operation or concentrated animal feeding operation by the state Department of Health, with a minimum of 50 cows or 500 swine.
Sen. Connie Triplett, D-Grand Forks, said the House amendments clarified that “we really are not talking about our grandparents’ farm, we are talking about confined animal feeding operations,” and she urged a no vote on the bill.
“There will be environment issues from these confined animal feeding operations, and certainly I hope that our state Department of Health and our Department of Agriculture and our county commissioners who have to deal with zoning these facilities will be on their toes and will make sure they are located in ways that do not pollute our groundwater, our rivers and streams and damage the health of the employees who will work inside those facilities,” she said.