Amendments, referred law on ’98 ballot

Amendments, referred law on '98 ballot Editor's Note: South Dakota voters will be considering eight constitutional amendments and one referred law on the ballot Nov. 3. In the coming weeks before the election, the Plain Talk will print pros and cons of the ballot questions and the Attorney General's official explanations. The pros and cons are written by proponents and opponents of the ballot questions. The information is from a pamphlet prepared by the Office of Secretary of State.


Amendment E

Title: Initiated amendment to Article XVII of the South Dakota Constitution concerning ownership and interest in farming.

Attorney General


Currently, the Constitution does not restrict the use or ownership of farmland. However, the Legislature has prohibited some corporations from engaging in farming, and in certain hog production activities.

Amendment E would create constitutional prohibitions. Many corporations, limited partnerships, limited liability companies, and other business entities would not be permitted to own farmland or engage in farming or livestock production.

Amendment E does not affect current ownership or leasing of farmland, or livestock production, by these businesses. However, it would prohibit them from farming new land, or buying, leasing, or contracting for any new interest in farm lands, farming or livestock production. The amendment may potentially prevent these businesses from renewing current leases.

Amendment E would not affect qualified family farm corporations, nonprofit corporations, certain ag co-ops, research farms, alfalfa leases, livestock futures, certain custom farm work, security interests, the purchase of land for nonfarm purposes, and other activities.

A vote "Yes" will prohibit many types of businesses from owning farmlands. It will also prevent these businesses from having interests in agricultural contracts, farmlands, or operations.

A vote "No" will leave the Constitution as it is.

Pro — Constitutional Amendment E

Family agriculture is the economic foundation for South Dakota communities — rural and urban. Income earned by family farmers and ranchers is spent on local mainstreets and is multiplied again and again as it moves through the local and regional economies. However large non-family farm corporations increasingly threaten our traditional rural way of life.

Constitutional Amendment E gives South Dakota voters the opportunity to decide whether control of our state's agriculture should remain in the hands of family farmers and ranchers or fall into the grasp of a few, large corporations.

Constitutional Amendment E is a logical extension of South Dakota's 1974 Family Farm Act and the 1988 amendment prohibiting non-family farm, corporate ownership of pork production facilities. The amendment is almost identical to popular and successful constitutional provisions approved by voters in our neighboring state of Nebraska more than 15 years ago. The only real difference is an exemption contained in Amendment E for farmer-owned cooperatives.

Constitutional Amendment E expands and strengthens our anti-corporate farming statutes with an additional prohibition of non-family farm, corporate ownership of livestock. Supporters say Amendment E is needed to prevent corporations from using interlocking boards and other anti-competitive ties with the meatpacking industry from limiting and then ending market access for independent livestock producers.

These corporations — now making their play to control South Dakota livestock production — have something else. They have track records of significant and repeated environmental violations — a far distance from the solid record of land stewardship practiced by family farmers and ranchers.

Handing control of South Dakota agriculture over to non-family farm and ranch corporations will not build value-added agriculture. Desperately needed profits will be skimmed out of local economies and into the pockets of distant corporations.

Passage of Constitutional Amendment E will reaffirm South Dakota's commitment to family agriculture. More importantly it will prevent large, non-family farm corporations from using unfair, anti-competitive advantages to turn independent family farmers and ranchers into a new generation of sharecroppers.

Submitted by: Charlie Johnson, RR 2 Box 29, Madison, SD 57642 and Dennis Wiese, 707 S. Crescent, Flandreau, SD 57028 who are co-chairmen of Vote Yes for Amendment E. Johnson represents Dakota Rural Action and Wiese is president of South Dakota Farmers Union.

Con — Constitutional Amendment E

Amendment E is unfair to South Dakota farmers and ranchers. It is a poorly thought out idea that does not belong in

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Specifically, Amendment E would put into our State's constitution language that:

1. Discriminates against successful family farmers.

The language of Amendment E does not clearly distinguish between South Dakota farmers and out-of-state-based farmers and ranchers.

2. Eliminates financial options needed to save the family farm. Amendment E bans many business structures currently used by South Dakota farmers and ranchers to remain financially solvent and thereby able to stay in business.

3. Cripples value-added agriculture development.

South Dakota agriculture needs more capital investment not less. By banning non-related farmers from working together to further the agriculture industry, Amendment E would cripple our economic future.

4. Fails to help the environment.

There is absolutely no language in Amendment E that addresses the environment. None! It was left out.

5. Does nothing to address concerns regarding large scale hogfarms.

The word hog was also left out of the language of the petition. Therefore, the severe restrictions that Amendment E is supposed to place on large out-of-state hog confinement facilities would be placed on ALL our farmers and ranchers whether they raise corn, soybeans, cattle or sheep.

Finally, the issues that the proponents of Amendment E claim to be concerned about should be debated in the Legislature. Our constitution should not be violated with complicated and confusing language advocated by a small band of special interests.

Submitted by: Frank Brost, 404 W. Missouri Ave., Pierre, SD 57501 and Tom Batcheller, 1437 S. Westward Ho Place, Sioux Falls, SD 57105. Brost is a Jones County rancher and co-chair of Vote No on E committee. Batcheller is a Sioux Falls agri-businessman and treasurer of Vote No on E committee.

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