Candidates Trying to Have It Both Ways on Farm Policy

It appears some Legislators are attempting to have it both ways on farming policy in North Dakota. Paging through the North Dakota Farmers Union magazine while at Big Iron, I found their voter guide. Their question was simple, do you support the state’s anti-corporate farming law? A handful of respondents replied “yes” even though their voting record suggests otherwise.

In 2015, State Senator Terry Wanzek introduced a bill to weaken North Dakota’s longstanding anti-corporate farming law. Wanzek championed the bill in the face of strong opposition from backers of family farms including Farmers Union. He pushed it through the Legislature largely along party lines. Ultimately, the law was referred to the public and they overwhelmingly rejected Wanzek’s law. Nearly 76% of voters said they didn’t want the law. No wonder candidates are back peddling on it now.

Wanzek was the face of the corporate farming law change in North Dakota. Though Wanzek is the most glaring example, he isn’t alone. Reading through the voter guide of those who responded and were elected in 2015, I found six Legislators who voted against the anti-corporate farming law who now claim to support the law. Note that not every candidate responded to the Farmers Union. Here they are:

  • District 1 – Pat Hatlestad
  • District 27 – Thomas Beadle
  • District 29 – Terry Wanzek, Craig Headland, Chet Pollert
  • District 41 – Kyle Davison

Days before the public rejected Wanzek’s corporate farming, the North Dakota Farm Bureau announced they were filing a lawsuit against the state in federal court. Daryl Lies, President of NDFB, likely knew the public was about to overturn the Legislature and decided they’d try to force the change upon us through the courts. Both Lies and Wanzek are on Congressional candidate Kelly Armstrong’s “Agriculture Advisory Committee.” The NDFB suing North Dakota also recently endorsed Kevin Cramer in his bid for the Senate.

Agriculture is the driver of the North Dakota economy. The circumstances in 2018 have heightened the awareness of farm policy. Some of the candidates on the ballot have taken very unpopular positions on farm policy in the past. They’re now attempting to have it both ways for political purposes.