The North Dakota experience

Posted August 7, 2014 at 1:27 pm

by Todd Hays, Vice President of Missouri Farm Bureau

In 2012, North Dakota was the first state to propose a constitutional amendment protecting farmers and ranchers. Their experience provides an important backdrop as rhetoric heats up in Missouri over Amendment #1—Keep Missouri Farming.

The North Dakota Feeding Families Initiative passed in every county and was approved statewide with almost 67 percent of the vote. While the vast majority of North Dakota farmers supported the measure, opponents such as the Washington, DC based Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) waged a campaign long on scare tactics and short on local support.

North Dakota Farm Bureau President Doyle Johannes and Administrator Jeff Missling recently shared some of their experience from the campaign: “During the battle to ratify the Feeding Families measure, our opponents used a variety of scare tactics in an effort to sway public opinion, but history proved their outlandish predictions to be false. The voters of North Dakota saw the truth through the minutia, and in spite of a well-funded opposition, the truth prevailed and agriculture was protected. Since the measure passed we have NOT witnessed an increase in lawsuits, animal abuse has NOT increased, and agribusinesses have NOT been forced to shut down. Water quality and other environmental concerns that were being fabricated by the opposition have not come to pass.”

The pair went on to state “Members of the North Dakota Farmers Union charged that the passage of this initiative would grant big corporate farms the ability to freely pollute the streams, over fertilize croplands, and cloud the air with pesticides. Obviously these claims were groundless, but a small segment of the population wanted to believe their accusations. However, a review of our state’s environmental record quickly revealed we have enjoyed a very clean track record and that agriculture has never posed a serious threat to the environment in North Dakota, thanks in part to technological advancements.”

Sound familiar? HSUS, the Sierra Club, Missouri Coalition for the Environment and others are making many of the same accusations, and even adding a few more, here in Missouri. So keep the North Dakota experience in mind as you hear them proclaim the “sky is falling” yet once again.

(Todd Hays, of Monroe City, is a pork producer and Vice President of Missouri Farm Bureau, the state’s largest farm organization.)