This Letter to the Editor was published in the Fargo Forum on December 13, 2023. Curtis Stofferahn, chair of Dakota Resource Council, questions the North Dakota Farmers Union’s decision to support corporate farming.
As the chair of Dakota Resource Council (DRC), I find it imperative to shed light on a critical moment in our recent legislative session—one that underscores the enduring commitment of DRC to family farming and ranching. Dakota Resource Council has long supported the corporate farming law, and we remain resolute in our opposition to amendments to the law to permit corporate animal agriculture.
In the face of a challenging bill, HB 1371, during the 2023 legislative session that would exempt the law from corporate animal agriculture, DRC stood unwaveringly against it. Our commitment was not merely a stance against change but a principled effort to protect the very essence of family farming and ranching.
During the bill’s consideration in the House Agriculture Committee, North Dakota Farmers Union (NDFU) President Watne voiced opposition, aligning with our shared commitment to preserving the integrity of the corporate farming law. However, the subsequent introduction of amendments supported by NDFU, aimed at salvaging a flawed bill, left us grappling with a seismic shift in their position.
As the Chair of DRC, I testified against the amendments. I relied upon my research prepared as expert testimony for the ND Attorney General’s office in five cases challenging the corporate farming law. That research concluded that industrialized agriculture, in general, and corporate farming, in particular, have documented detrimental social and environmental impacts on our rural communities.
The heart of the matter is clear—while DRC remained steadfast in defending the existing law, an unexpected about-face occurred within NDFU. DRC’s commitment is unequivocal: we represent and advocate for family farming and ranching, but we do not represent nor advocate for corporate farming interests. We reaffirmed our support of the original, unamended law with a resolution at our last annual meeting.
As the NDFU members converge at the annual Farmers Union convention, I call on them to reflect on NDFU’s core values that have long sustained the organization’s support for the corporate farming law. Let us not waver in our dedication to laws that preserve and support family farming and ranching.
Curtis Stofferahn, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus & Rural Sociologist
Chair, Dakota Resource Council (DRC)