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Published July 08, 2015, 07:48 AM

Animal ag has real economic impact

JAMESTOWN, N.D. — I question The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead’s knowledge of animal agriculture economics. I am responding to the recent editorial (Rural towns need more than new farm law, Agweek, June 22) stating the legislative change and investment into animal ag won’t, in its words, “make a dust devils worth of difference” to rural North Dakota.

By: Terry Wanzek , R-Jamestown

JAMESTOWN, N.D. — I question The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead’s knowledge of animal agriculture economics. I am responding to the recent editorial (Rural towns need more than new farm law, Agweek, June 22) stating the legislative change and investment into animal ag won’t, in its words, “make a dust devils worth of difference” to rural North Dakota.

Iowa has 21 million hogs, Minnesota 8 million, Nebraska 3.1 million and South Dakota 1.3 million. North Dakota has 130,000 hogs. Each hog generates approximately $1,000 of economic impact per year. The Forum wants us to believe the $21 billion-per-year Iowa hog industry does not have an economic impact in rural Iowa. The same can be said for dairies. Wisconsin has 1.3 million dairy cows, Minnesota 464,000, Iowa 208,000 and South Dakota 94,000. North Dakota has 16,000 dairy cows, down from 49,000 13 years ago and 100,000 25 years ago.

Each cow generates approximately $15,000 of economic impact per year. So The Forum is saying the $19.5 billion-per-year Wisconsin dairy industry is no big deal to rural Wisconsin. North Dakota’s oil industry provides $17 billion of direct fiscal contribution, according to the North Dakota Petroluum Council. No real jobs will be created, says The Forum.

The newspaper ignored the secondary jobs created. Travel through the small towns in southern Minnesota, Wisconsin or Iowa. They sure as heck are more economically vibrant than our small rural communities.

Animal agriculture is added-value ag and positive to rural economies. North Dakota’s rural communities have the potential to support dairy, swine or other animal ag farms. Currently, North Dakota is going backward.

The Forum says no jobs in animal agriculture. Then who will build the barns and other infrastructure needed? Who will provide supplies, equipment, vehicles, or technology and service necessary? Who will provide animal health services, or banking, insurance, legal and accounting services for these farms? Who will provide all the power, electricity or fuel necessary to operate these farms? Who will provide the large amounts of feed necessary? Who will transport and process the milk and pork? North Dakota’s two current milk processors need to import milk to stay open.

One thing is certain: If we don’t at least try making minor changes to the law, there will be no future for dairy or swine. It takes significant capital investment. This law change has exhibited proven success in other states. If this law change will make no difference as claimed, what harm is there in trying? What we are doing isn’t working.

The North Dakota Dairy Coalition and the North Dakota Pork Council are on record in support. These family farmers came to the Legislature and asked for this help. The opposition is not listening to these family farmers who are actually invested in dairy and swine. This minor change will not threaten our family farmers. In North Dakota, there are fewer than 90 dairy farmers left, and they are declining. This change can provide opportunity for our family farmers and complement them.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says 97 percent of all U.S. farms are family-owned and operated, even though most states do not have this restrictive law.

I could argue that the oil industry has provided no job for me or my family. But that would be foolish. We all benefit with a vibrant state economy. North Dakota also has tremendous potential to develop a vibrant animal agriculture economy if we possess the courage to address change.

Editor’s note: Wanzek, R-Jamestown, represents District 29 in the North Dakota Senate. He was a sponsor of legislation that changed North Dakota’s corporate farming law.

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