Testimony Before the Senate Committee on HB 1396 -- Corporate Farming

To: Senate Agriculture Committee
From: Christopher Dodson, Executive Director
Subject: House Bill 1396 - Corporations in Farming and Ranching
Date: February 27, 2003

The North Dakota Catholic Conference opposes House Bill 1396. Farming and ranching is not merely an economic activity. It is both a sacred gift and sacred obligation. As such, it must be conducted within an ethical, economic, and legal framework that fosters justice, families, communities, the common good, and stewardship of creation. With this in mind, the conference believes the legislature should “support the spirit and intent of North Dakota’s Corporate Farming Law to preserve and maintain farm ownership and control in the hands of family farmers.”

House Bill 1396 is inconsistent with this call. The bishops’ support for family owned and operated entities stems from their belief, supported by experience and social data, that such ownership best ensures a just system of agriculture, economically, socially, and environmentally. It is consistent with the calls of bishops in rural communities across the nation and the laments of bishops and farmers in states with investor-owned farming.

Claims that the state’s current law ignores the inevitable trends of the modern economy and hinders efficiency reflect false ideologies concerning the economy and progress. The economy is a human-made institution, not an inevitable force. Although our current system falls short of a just system of agriculture, the choice of how to respond is ours. We should not choose to toss aside something that will not solve the problems and has served the people and land of North Dakota well.

Moreover, claims that investment, rather than morally just prices, will help North Dakota agriculture, place our hopes in “efficient” industrialization, rather than sustainable and just economies. Such misplaced emphasis on efficiency can unleash a “conspiracy against life” and promote a “culture of death.” In North Dakota, we have done -- and can do -- better.

We urge a Do Not Pass recommendation on HB 1396.