North Dakota Farmers Union and the Dakota Resource Council will be allowed to intervene in a federal lawsuit filed by the North Dakota Farm Bureau and other farmers and ranchers seeking to overturn the state’s anti-corporate farming laws.
U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Hovland ruled Wednesday that Farmers Union and the Dakota Resource Council could intervene in the lawsuit as both entities had a right to do so under Rule 24 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
Farmers Union President Mark Watne said in a statement he was pleased with Hovland’s ruling.
“It gives us the ability to actively participate in the legal defense of a law that is incredibly important to family farm and ranch agriculture in our state,” he said. “(It is) a law Farmers Union has consistently defended since we first helped enact it in 1932.”
According to court documents, Hovland said in his ruling that a party wanting to intervene in a lawsuit has to show its interests are “not adequately represented by the existing parties.”
North Dakota Farm Bureau filed the lawsuit along with seven other parties, mainly farmers and ranchers in North Dakota who claim that the state’s anti-corporate farming law prohibits them from conducting business as they see fit due to restrictions imposed by the law.
Since the lawsuit challenges a state law, North Dakota is the primary defendant, with Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem acting as the attorney for the state.
Stenehjem did not oppose Farmers Union intervening on the state’s behalf in the case. He did oppose the Dakota Resource Council’s request for intervention, according to court documents.
In order for someone or an organization to intervene in a federal lawsuit, the person or organization must prove three things:
The party must prove it has a recognized interest in the litigation.
The interest might be impaired by the disposition of the litigation.
The interest must not be adequately protected by the existing parties.
Hovland said Farmers Union and the Dakota Resource Council met all three standards. He said both entities represent people and organizations, mainly rural and family farmers, whose interests may not be fully represented by the state.
Hovland said Farmers Union “has a unique interest in defending the law it drafted over 80 years ago.” The law was first enacted through an initiated measure in 1932 and has been amended a number of times since. He said Farmers Union, as the law’s primary advocate, will rely on its institutional knowledge as it presents information to support the need for the law
In 2015 the state Legislature amended the law to allow some forms of corporate farming to operate dairy and swine herds.
On June 2, 2016, state voters overwhelmingly rejected the change and removed the amendments in an initiated measure started and supported by Farmers Union.
Attempts to reach North Dakota Farm Bureau President Daryl Lies were unsuccessful. In an opinion column issued to the media in June when the lawsuit was filed, Lies wrote that North Dakota’s anti-corporate farming laws were forcing farm families to make business management decisions that other businesses are not being forced to make. He wrote that the North Dakota Farm Bureau believes the anti-corporate farming laws are discriminatory and unconstitutional.