This Session, the South Dakota Legislature passed Senate Bill 98, which repealed the ban on corporate ownership of hog farms in South Dakota. That action was made possible by the Eighth Circuit Court’s 2004 ruling that the 1998 initiated amendment that bans corporate farming is unconstitutional.
North Dakota voters get their say on a corporate farming bill next month. In March 2015, their legislature passed Senate Bill 2351, which exempts “corporate dairy and swine operations of at least 50 cows or 500 swine on a farm of up to 640 acres” from their statewide corporate farming restrictions.
North Dakota farmer Sandra Banish of Cayuga says letting corporations own dairy and swine operations will harm North Dakota by making it more like South Dakota:
If Measure 1 passes and corporate farming in North Dakota is allowed, it will be a financial disaster for the state of North Dakota. North Dakota would see a lack of investment in local economies. I have seen this happen in other states that have corporate farming. There’s increased consolidation of farms that take ownership away from the very people who work the land and are stewards of the land.
Proponents often point to South Dakota as a successful model of growth in animal agriculture. What’s happening there isn’t expansion or growth of farms, it’s consolidation. Since South Dakota weakened its corporate farming restrictions, the state has lost 5,000 small and medium-size farms. It actually has fewer dairies now than with stricter laws in place. Nearly 80 percent of medium-sized dairies in South Dakota have been wiped out since 2004. South Dakota isn’t the ideal model of animal agriculture. It’s a warning sign and example of what could happen in North Dakota if Measure 1 passes [Sandra Banish, letter to the editor, Ag Week, 2016.05.04].
Sow numbers in South Dakota rose 8.6% last year to a twenty-year high; over the past decade, South Dakota hog production has risen 53%. According to the USDA Census of Agriculture, from 2007 to 2012, the number of hog farms in South Dakota lost 364 hog farms, 35% of the 2007 total. We’re making more bacon, but fewer independent farmers are bringing it home.