(JAMESTOWN, N.D.) — North Dakota Farmers Union has won a lawsuit to uphold the state’s corporate farming law.

Judge Daniel L. Hovland of the U.S. District Court for North Dakota handed down a decision Friday to preserve the Depression-era law, saying “the purpose of enacting the family farm exception was to help keep family farms viable.” North Dakota Farm Bureau had filed the lawsuit in June of 2016.

The decision allows the North Dakota attorney general to continue to enforce the law as it has been doing – allowing only family farmers, ranchers and corporations or LLCs owned by families to farm in North Dakota. The state of North Dakota defended the law, and NDFU and the Dakota Resource Council were allowed to intervene. 

“We are proud to be on the right side of history again,” said NDFU President Mark Watne. “Family farmers and ranchers are both the legacy of our state and the future. We know the great majority of North Dakotans throughout our history and today agree that corporate farming is not right for our communities, our food system, or our state. The court’s ruling today reinforces the purpose of the law: to keep farming and farmland in the hands of family farmers.”

In 2015, North Dakota legislators passed a hog and dairy exemption to the law. NDFU responded by referring the law to a public vote, collecting over 21,000 signatures. In 2016, voters overwhelmingly cast their ballots to reject the changes made by legislators with almost 76 percent of the vote. Farm Bureau filed the lawsuit in federal court in June of 2016, calling the law “unconstitutional.”