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Letter: A threat looms for North Dakota farms

Why should we change our laws to allow more farmland acquisition to the likes of Bill Gates and Chinese entities that his administration has been bringing into North Dakota?

Letter to the editor FSA
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Gov. Doug Burgum gave his annual State of the State address recently. In it, he said, “farm and ranch families are the backbone of our state.” Almost the next thing out of his mouth was that we should weaken North Dakota’s long-standing law that does not allow corporations to buy up North Dakota farmland.

Burgum won his primary on June 14, 2016, and in that same election a ballot measure repealing a 2015 legislative change to allow corporate farming in North Dakota was passed by 76% of the voters of North Dakota. Votes to restore the ban on corporate farming were in the majority in every county across the state. Burgum should then remember clearly that North Dakotans support family farms.

But the question before our elected legislators is: Why should we change our laws to allow more farmland acquisition to the likes of Bill Gates and Chinese entities that his administration has been bringing into North Dakota?

Farmers of all sizes in North Dakota should be concerned because Burgum is setting the table so his West Coast billionaire friends and foreign corporations can buy up swaths of the farmland base of North Dakota.

Twenty-one members of Congress, including Minnesota’s Tom Emmer and Michelle Fischbach, in a July 18, 2022, letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack stated: “We are alarmed by the rapid increase in the amount of United States land acquired by Chinese entities. … If we look beyond just China, all foreign holdings of U.S. agricultural land have increased by an average of 2.3 million acres per year between 2015 and 2020.”

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States in our region have long ago recognized this threat to our farms, main streets and way of life of farms and rural communities. Minnesota and Iowa have laws banning foreign ownership of farmland, and eight states in our region are contemplating the same type of legislation this year. I challenge the wisdom of Gov. Burgum to buck this trend.

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