Conservation fund opponents incorrectly list public entities as coalition members
FARGO – Several state organizations were improperly included in a list of agricultural interests aligned in a coalition against the proposed Clean Water, Parks and Wildlife Amendment.
The state entities are associate, non-voting members of the North Dakota Ag Coalition, a longstanding group of agricultural interests formed to speak with a common voice on issues.
In a Thursday news release announcing the coalition’s opposition to the conservation amendment, whose backers propose setting aside oil and gas revenues, the list of members included the North Dakota Agriculture Department, North Dakota State Seed Commission, North Dakota Wheat Commission, North Dakota State University Agricultural Affairs and the Garrison Diversion Conservancy District.
The news release was distributed by Jon Godfread of the Greater North Dakota Chamber of Commerce, which is taking a leading role in opposing the proposed amendment, which backers are trying to place on the November ballot.
As non-voting ag coalition members, the state-related organizations didn’t vote on the amendment stance, as state entities are barred from becoming involved in political issues, representatives said Friday.
“Legally the organizations can’t take a political position of any kind,” Jessie Bateman Pfaff of Clearwater Communications, a Bismarck firm that administers the North Dakota Ag Coalition and compiled the list of members for the news release.
The inclusion of associate members in communications involving political issues has not been raised as an issue in the past, and will no longer be done, Bateman Pfaff said. “In the future we’ll make sure that is noted,” she said.
The North Dakota Ag Coalition will issue a statement clarifying that its non-voting, ex officio members, including the state entities, are not taking a public position on the conservation amendment, Bateman Pfaff said.
The North Dakota Ag Coalition voted unanimously to oppose the proposed Clean Water, Wildlife and Parks Amendment and has joined the North Dakotans for Common Sense Conservation, an alliance of business, agricultural and other organizations working to defeat the amendment.
“The proposed amendment allows for the purchase of land, potentially taking it out of agricultural production, which is a major concern for our members,” Fred Helbling, chairman of the North Dakota Ag Coalition, said in a statement.
He added: “There also is a concern regarding the out-of-state interests supporting this amendment.”
The North Dakota Ag Coalition includes more than 40 organizations and businesses, including many farming, livestock and commodity groups
Members include the North Dakota Grain Growers Association, North Dakota Dairy Coalition, North Dakota Association of Soil Conservation Districts, North Dakota Barley Council, North Dakota Farmers Union and North Dakota Stockmen’s Association, among many others.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Patrick Springer at (701) 241-5522