Candidates answer NDFU questions on ag, rural America

Both rural and urban North Dakotans overwhelmingly agree that farming is central to the North Dakota way of life. Family farmers are essential to North Dakota’s economy and communities. As the largest grassroots organization that represents family farmers and ranchers in the state, North Dakota Farmers Union urges its members to ask their candidates about their views of family farm agriculture, and to support family farms with their vote in November.

This year, the general election is Nov. 8. All North Dakota voting information may be accessed through vote.nd.gov. Valid identification is required at voting time.

BALLOT MEASURES

Recreational marijuana*

Would allow for the production, processing, and sale of cannabis and the possession and use of various forms of cannabis by individuals who are 21 years of age and older, within limitations as to location; direct a state entity to regulate and register adult-use cannabis production businesses, dispensaries, and their agents; permit an individual to possess a limited amount of cannabis product; provide protections, limitations, penalties, and employer rights relating to use of cannabis products; and provide that fees are to be appropriated for administration of the chapter

VOTE NO
*Per NDFU Policy: “We oppose legalization of recreational marijuana.” (Page 82, Line 7)


Term limits**

Would limit the governor to serving two terms. It would limit state legislators to serving eight years in the state House and eight years in the state Senate. A member of the state House or state Senate could not serve a term or remaining portion of a term if it would cause the legislator to have served a cumulative time of more than eight years in the chamber. The measure would only apply to individuals elected after approval of the amendment, if it is approved by voters. The measure would provide that the provisions of the amendment can only be amended by citizen initiative petitions and not by the state legislature.

VOTE NO

*Per NDFU Policy: “We oppose term limitations because they are a limitation on the rights of citizens to choose and elect their public officials.” (Page 77, Lines 1-2)

 

The existing farm safety net has proven inadequate in the face of extreme market volatility over the last few years. As a result, farmers have been forced to rely on ad hoc relief. As the 2023 Farm Bill debate gets underway, what are your priorities for strengthening the farm safety net?

HOEVEN: Every American, every single day, benefits from good farm policy. That’s why as a senior member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, crafting a robust, long-term farm bill is a top priority of mine.

Getting the next farm bill right is more important than ever.  Events in recent years, including Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, have reminded us that food security is national security.  The farm bill isn’t just about supporting farmers and ranchers – it’s about ensuring our domestic food supply remains resilient, affordable and safe. 

A key part of the farm bill is a strong farm safety net, which provides a foundation for our farmers and ranchers to confidently produce the food, fuel and fiber our nation depends on.  Programs like Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) provide support to farmers when prices fall and pull back that support when prices rise.  This model provides the assistance farmers need during tough times while spending taxpayer dollars responsibly. 

Unfortunately, the prices these programs are based on – known as reference prices – have not kept pace with today’s cost of production. I believe reference prices should be raised to keep these programs relevant and ensure they effectively fulfill their role as the foundation of the safety net. 

At the same time, I remain committed to protecting and improving crop insurance – the number one risk management tool for producers.  This includes improvements to livestock risk management products to make them more affordable and accessible for ranchers. 

CHRISTIANSEN: The extreme market volatility is due in part to controllable and uncontrollable events. We need to reduce the impact of avoidable events like Trade Wars. We also need to address the uncontrollable like the impacts of extreme weather events that affect calving and planting and harvesting. The tools I would support employing are modernizing subsidies and indemnity programs. The Farm Bill’s Livestock Indemnity Program can be updated to provide for faster relief and update calculations to account for extreme weather events that can cripple operations. We also need to fund breeding programs that lead to more sustainable and robust crop varieties that can use water more efficiently as water availability becomes an issue for growers. 

We need to modernize CRP payments and grazing rules to be in line with new knowledge about CRP productivity, carbon sequestration and grazing. We also need to pay farmers for experimentally adopting new cropping techniques like co-cropping as that will serve to conserve topsoil and increase organic material in the soil which is good for plants and the planet. 

BECKER: As the 2023 Farm Bill shapes up over the next many months, it’s important to balance a variety of concerns.  We must resist climate change policies that the Biden administration is keen to add, which will inevitably hurt farmers.  Instead, food security must be at the forefront of any broader policy discussion.  This is also a good time to get back to reforming the nutrition programs in Title IV, such as reducing fraud and increasing work requirements for SNAP benefits.  Finally, I would like to see policies that reduce barriers to entry for young and new farmers.  I believe we can achieve a better distribution of USDA farm subsidies than the current situation of the wealthiest 10% of farmers receiving 66% of all subsidies.

Agriculture supply chain issues are a tremendous concern.  The largest supply chain constraint has been labor, whether in the transportation, equipment manufacturing, or other input production industries.  We can greatly improve this through various policies such as removing onerous trucking and CDL requirements, and avoiding a repeat of the failed policy of giving American citizens a monthly stipend to stay at home, rather than go to work.  There are innumerable opportunities to mitigate other supply chain issues, ranging from lifting EPA restrictions on pesticide availability, to clamping down on cyber attacks on grain elevators from China and other bad actors.

Supply chain issues, market concentration and global conflicts have all contributed to skyrocketing input costs for producers. What will you do to address the rising cost of fertilizer and other key inputs?

CHRISTIANSEN: We need to address the harmful volatility of farm input costs through litigation against price fixing inputs and price fixing by buyers, funding innovation to replace costly fertilizers or pesticides, and breeding to increase nitrogen use efficiency in corn and wheat. CRISPR technology has been employed widely in biomedical research to improve human life, we should work to use CRISPR to improve plant genetics so crops are more resistant to disease and drought and require fewer inputs during the growing season. The breeding needs to occur so that technology and seeds are in the public domain and not one or two companies make loads of money at the expense of everyone else. We also need to look at diversifying the energy production sector. Diesel is a valuable fuel for farmers and so we need to focus on innovating and supporting energy sector transformations that keep diesel costs low for farmers. We should also use Extension service and USDA producer grants to help reduce the energy and water intensive unit operations on a farm to lower input costs and help the producer capture a larger margin. 

HOEVEN: Rising input costs present a real challenge for our farmers. First and foremost, the Biden Administration must remove the handcuffs on our domestic energy producers and allow them to harness our abundant energy reserves.  

In the Senate, I’ve worked to push back on the Administration’s burdensome regulations. This includes introducing legislation to increase domestic production by permitting important infrastructure projects, like the Keystone XL Pipeline, along with removing regulatory barriers and red tape.  Increasing our domestic energy production would lower the costs of energy-intensive inputs, like fertilizer and diesel fuel, that our farmers rely on. 

BECKER: The skyrocketing cost of fertilizer is a major concern.  It has been coming down the last couple months, and I hope that trend will continue, however, there are many things that can be done to help now, and to prevent a repeat situation in the future.  The most obvious is to reduce the cost of energy.  We know that natural gas, electricity, and other energy factors represent a significant cost in the production of fertilizer.  The global warming, ESG policies imposed by the Biden administration have absolutely hamstrung our domestic energy producers, forcing energy costs to be needlessly high. We must fight back against these crippling policies.  Other things that can be done include efforts to modify sanctions on Belarus to allow an increase in potash supply, to move away from anti-dumping lawsuit-derived tariffs on phosphate imports to lower those prices, and to increase fertilizer production in the U.S., reversing the trend of fewer and bigger merged production facilities.

Finally, we need to stop spending money we don’t have, because it hurts ALL Americans, including farmers.

The existing farm safety net has proven inadequate in the face of extreme market volatility over the last few years. As a result, farmers have been forced to rely on ad hoc relief. As the 2023 Farm Bill debate gets underway, what are your priorities for strengthening the farm safety net?

ARMSTRONG: In the upcoming Farm Bill, we need to protect commodity programs and ensure crop insurance remains strong. Producers deserve programs that provide certainty when times are tough and accurately reflect the market. Programs must be responsive to producers’ needs and not just reactive. The pandemic and recent marketplace volatility have taught us that producers need flexibility to help meet their needs.

MUND: The 2023 Farm Bill comes at a time of major challenges for North Dakota farmers and ranchers, many of whom have faced supply chain disruptions and experienced an increased surge in production costs, including the increase for fuel, transportation, and production materials. As the 2023 Farm Bill debate gets underway, it is essential that we protect our North Dakota farmers and ranchers by strengthening the farm safety net.

As your sole representative in the U.S. House, I will strengthen the farm safety net in three ways. First, I will work to reauthorize and reinforce the various 2018 Farm Bill programs that compose of our already existing food production safety nets, including commodity support programs, the federal crop insurance program, and permanent disaster assistance programs. Second, I will support protecting and strengthening crop insurance and will oppose cuts that could jeopardize the capability of the federal government and the private insurance industry to deliver effective risk protection to our North Dakota farmers and ranchers. Third, I will advocate for enhanced assistance for small and medium-sized farms, specialty crops, conservation, and rural development. As an Independent, I will put the needs of our North Dakota farmers and ranchers above the agenda of a political party.

Supply chain issues, market concentration and global conflicts have all contributed to skyrocketing input costs for producers. What will you do to address the rising cost of fertilizer and other key inputs?

MUND: Since 2018, our North Dakota farmers and ranchers have experienced the economic impacts of a trade war with China, marketing and supply chain disruptions caused by the pandemic, the effects of the war in Ukraine, historic weather events, and now extreme volatility in commodity and input markets. Although the 2018 Farm Bill included crop insurance and farm commodity programs, these programs did not account for the immense strain from sky-high input prices, including fertilizer, seed, and fuel.

As an Independent eager to ground the rising costs of key inputs, I will address the issue in two ways. First, I will advocate for two changes to two USDA safety nets: the Price Loss Coverage and Agriculture Risk Incentive programs. Both programs need to increase their reference prices to adjust for inflation. Second, I will advocate for investing more in domestic fertilizer production and other key inputs to lower costs and boost availability for our North Dakota farmers so they can obtain the inputs they need at prices they can afford to maximize yields. It’s time we have a representative that puts party politics aside and upholds and supports the hard work of our North Dakota farmers and ranchers.

ARMSTRONG: Global demand for commodities is rising. So is the price of everything from fertilizer to fuel. The first thing we need to do is untangle complicated supply chains. We must increase access by removing barriers to investment and bringing the supply chains closer to producers. Doing this will help control soaring costs and give farmers and ranchers more certainty in the marketplace.

Another action is tile back unfriendly regulatory actions in which federal agencies make it harder for producers to feed and fuel the world. As an example, the EPA has long worked to limit critical and safely used agricultural chemicals. Its latest effort is to stop the herbicide Atrazine, which is important for corn production. Reducing or limiting access to proven and safe products will do nothing to help the producer or the consumer.

The world is going to need more calories in the future and North Dakota is well positioned to provide them. Our producers have the knowledge and dedication required to meet these demands, and we should empower them to do so. 

One of North Dakota Farmers Union’s top priorities is supporting value-added opportunities for family farmers and ranchers. As agriculture commissioner, what will you do to promote expansion of meat processing, renewable fuels, fertilizer production and other value-added projects?

GOEHRING: I believe developing tools or supporting infrastructure projects that can assist the industry in a specific way can facilitate the creation or expansion of value added operations.

At the beginning of the pandemic we were able to utilize federal funds and create the meat processing grant program. It provided up to 75% cost share for equipment that could help increase efficiencies and create more capacity for a processor to better serve the consumer. We documented an improvement of efficiency by 230% in North Dakota’s facilities. The program was such a success that federal government took the program and implemented it nationally. The same thing has happened with our charitable food organization grant and the emergency feed transportation, both have been adopted and implemented at the national level. What a great testament to North Dakota.

DOOLEY: A. The expansion of meat processing.

More grain-processing endeavors, like that proposed by Fufeng, are needed. Wet milling North Dakota corn is a value-add proposition as it creates the opportunity for more livestock.  

Assuming our nation’s intelligence services determine there is zero risk of foreign interference in our nation’s security, I firmly believe North Dakota ought to encourage foreign investments like that proposed by Fufeng.  

Nobody should confuse foreign investment in grain processing (or auto factories) with the purchase of North Dakota farmland by foreigners.

The proposed processing plant, or other enterprises like it, could be a valuable break-thru. The production of Dry Residual Grains (DRGs) will open opportunities for additional and larger Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). I support carefully designed, and properly located CAFOs for in-state meat processing.   

I am confident our next generation CAFOs will, if aided by comprehensive planning and state-of-the-art controls, be as free of noxious odors and other potential environmental problems, as are our coal-fired power plants. Department of Environmental Quality and our universities both are needed, backed by the financial resources of the Bank of North Dakota. 

B. Expansion of use of renewable fuels:

Our Universities and the Bank of North Dakota must be engaged.

C. Expansion of fertilizer production:  

I support farm management plans to entrain carbon in soils and reduced uses of fertilizers.  

D. Expansion of other value-added projects:

 North Dakota ought to again, as it was in the homesteading era, be more engaged in recruiting workers and immigrant families from other nations’ farm and ranch communities. Expansion of many programs will be more likely to succeed if we recruit not only workers but whole families of multiple backgrounds.  

 I support a Restoration Economy utilizing the best available technology and modern soil science to revive North Dakota’s Dead Lands. See http://www.revivethedeadlands.org.

Remediation takes time, as experts estimate that restoring maximum soil productivity will take 5 to 10 years with jobs lasting at least until after the last oil well is plugged.

After accumulating 70 years of Salt Contaminated Lands, the value of the estates of thousands of ND surface owners have been destroyed, no longer worthy of ag credit.

North Dakota’s rural grocery stores are going out of business at an alarming rate. In the last year, many North Dakota schools have faced food and milk shortages. What more should the state do to improve food distribution in rural communities?

DOOLEY: We ought to exempt them from taxes as if non-profits and allow local sales of unpasteurized milk to willing rural buyers. Small specialty dairies should be allowed to sell to buyers who are allowed to pick up or receive daily deliveries of unpasteurized milk. The buyers would be required to sign waivers. Food distribution to customers in rural communities would be improved under this plan.

Also, grants and low-interest loans to grocery cooperatives.

GOEHRING: Steps have been taken to rearrange distribution for milk to our schools. We can still consider regional hubs for distribution of milk and other grocery items for small town restaurants, grocery stores, nursing homes and long-term care facilities. This may help alleviate some concerns for distribution. Product could be picked up by businesses and organizations as well as encouraging use of food lockers and delivery services in some smaller rural communities. At the beginning of the pandemic we did develop the Charitable Food Organization Grant program (CFOG). It helped add refrigeration and freezer capacity as well as dehydrators that could be purchased by grocery stores, senior citizen centers and churches providing services to the elderly and socially disadvantaged in our small communities. Our grocers and organizations were able to stock more food and provide better services. The federal government adopted our program and is running but many have told us that it is very complicated and burdensome for grocers and organizations to apply.

The Attorney General is the state’s top law enforcement officer. How will you ensure that the AG’s office is enforcing the law in a fair and transparent manner?

WRIGLEY: Equality under the law is a central pillar of our justice system, a guiding principle throughout my many years as a prosecutor in state and federal courts. As Attorney General of North Dakota, I serve as the chief law enforcement officer for the state. I have continued my decades-long practice of remaining accessible, transparent, and accountable. Law enforcement work is scrutinized by courts as well as by the public and the media. That scrutiny helps serve as a “check and balance” against improper actions of those who enforce our laws. However, that system only works if prosecutors and law enforcement officials embrace public scrutiny of their work, and that has been my unwavering practice.

In addition to being accessible, transparent, and accountable, it is also critically important to work collaboratively with a diverse array of stakeholders throughout the criminal justice system. This collaboration helps to ensure that the decision making process includes multiple perspectives and views. I critically test all assumptions, thoroughly scrutinize all information and evidence available, while applying the objective decision making skills honed across the thousands of investigations and prosecutions I have undertaken and overseen. Fairness and equality under the law will always guide my work, and I will remain a tireless advocate for justice.

LAMB: The Attorney General’s duties and responsibilities are set by statutory law.  Among the duties, the AG oversees consumer protection, the Bureau of Criminal Investigation, open records laws, and antitrust laws.  I view the job as non-partisan, not political.

As a 20-year Army officer veteran, 15-year member of the Grand Forks School Board, with a law degree and Master’s in business, I understand what fair and transparent means.  It means being open and honest with enforcing the laws of the state.  The AG should not bend to the whims of political clout.  Rather, the AG must fully investigate the facts, research the law, and apply the law to the given set of facts regarding the issue.  

I will apply this standard if elected as your Attorney General.  That means a special prosecutor would be appointed to investigate the deleted e-mails in the AG’s office, the issue of Bill Gates buying huge amounts of farmland would be turned over to the courts to ascertain whether the state’s anti-corporation law was violated, and land owners’ rights would be protected against big oil exploitation in any form.  That’s being fair and transparent.

North Dakota Farmers Union is concerned by growing market concentration in food and agribusiness sectors. The Attorney General oversees the state’s antitrust laws. What will you do to protect North Dakotans from monopolistic practices?

LAMB: In these times, our country, along with the rest of the world, is experiencing an inflationary period.  Inflation has not been a concern for many years.  Yet, corporate profits are at an all-time high.  This begs the question whether big business is using the market climate to artificially inflate food prices higher than the production costs.  Thus, leaving farmers and ranchers behind.  

Under Century Code sect. 54-12-17, the Attorney General’s office is mandated to maintain a consumer protection and antitrust division.  The director of this division is charged with the responsibility of fully investigating any activity that may violate consumer fraud and/or antitrust laws (or monopolistic practices).

If, for example, there is evidence of corporate monopolies – who control the meat industry – manipulating of the market causing higher prices for consumers and disadvantaging farmers, this should be investigated.  I will do that.

The goal is for increased competition in the meat-processing industry.  We need transparency and competition in livestock markets.  Consolidation of the industry has had a negative impact on rural farmers and ranchers by reducing market options and shrinking power in the marketplace.

As your Attorney General, I will focus my attention on ensuring that the AG’s office is protecting the marketplace to ensure economic opportunity and fairness for farmers and ranchers.

WRIGLEY: North Dakota is a world leader in production agriculture, research, and innovation. The wide diversity of our producers and innovators has predominantly fueled the robust advancements that North Dakota proudly leads, decade after decade. I have been honored to lead agriculture trade missions all over the globe, with family farm representatives seeking overseas markets for our homegrown commodities. The world markets are hungry for the high quality, dependable, safe, and nutritious products our private farm and ranch operations produce in North Dakota. Our laws wisely protect against undue concentration, and I will work to ensure that we provide the protections that our Legislature has enacted. North Dakota’s productivity, community strength, and agricultural leadership are no accident, and I will work to maintain the even playing field for our producers.

North Dakota’s election process has recently been under a microscope. What will you do to reassure North Dakotans that our elections are secure, while protecting all citizens’ right to vote?

POWELL: I would argue it’s not North Dakota’s election process that is being scrutinized, it’s other states’. We don’t have voter registration in North Dakota – Republicans in other states have selectively purged voting rolls to advantage themselves. We have non-partisan auditors leading bipartisan canvassing boards in each of our 53 counties, and while Republicans in other states are trying to do away with those, no serious proposal here has been made to take electoral power from the people. The advantage to electing a voting official – the key voting official in the state – from ‘the other party’ is I won’t be influenced by Burgum’s money or the power of the leaders in the legislature and other parts of the government. 

I did my doctoral dissertation on voting rights and political participation and ensuring a working democracy is something I can stand on for thirty years. I stand alone as a Secretary of State candidate in espousing the value of democracy so clearly and as consistently. If you can vote for the person, rather than the party, and if you want to preserve democracy, it’s pretty clear I am the only reasonable choice for Secretary of State.

HOWE: In North Dakota we have seen very little in the way of voter fraud. That’s a credit to the citizens in each county that run our elections and a credit to the legislature for enacting safeguards that ensure the integrity of our elections, such as our voter ID law. In today’s political climate there are questions abound about the election process all over the United States. Some of that is a result of not being familiar with North Dakota’s election process. North Dakota’s election laws and processes differ from the other 49 states. Working alongside our counties, the Secretary of State’s Office will be open and transparent as to how we conduct our state’s elections. Online education seminars, public service announcements, engaging voters to view election machines and demonstrating in public the behind-the-scenes process of vote counting will reassure North Dakotans that your vote is being counted accurately, securely, and in a fair manner. 

If you are a United States citizen, a resident of the state of North Dakota, and are 18 years of age or older, I contend that North Dakota is the easiest place in the country to cast your vote.

(Editor’s note: Charles Tuttle submitted a series of questions he feels need to be answered.

TUTTLE: 1. Do all outside vendor contracts include provisions to make sure that all facets of North Dakota’s various apps and websites have North Dakota’s data hosted on servers located only within the USA? (Foreign companies AND locations excluded from having control over our data?) 2. Is the DMV data (used in ND government operations) located only on USA servers? (Not including back-ups) 3. Is the central voter roll data (used in North Dakota government operations) located only on servers within the United States of America? (Not including back-ups).

4. Is it standard practice to include in contracts that any subcontractor(s) or sub-subcontractor(s) must be disclosed i.e., name and location? 5. Do the contracts for data hosting for items 2 & 3 listed above require that the hosted data must reside on servers within the USA — and further is there a prohibition on foreign institutions, companies or countries from accessing, creating or modifying that same data? 6. Are the main ND.gov and ND voting websites hosted only on USA servers? If not, what company and in what country is that website hosted in?

You have said one of your priorities is to modernize the secretary of state’s office. What will you do to streamline processes, and how will those changes benefit farmers, ranchers and small businesses? 

HOWE: Farmers and ranchers were our state’s first entrepreneurs and have always led the way with innovation and technology. In 2022 our ag producers are more tech savvy than ever, and they expect to utilize those advancements with their interactions with government. Improving on a mobile friendly and user-friendly website and application to file, register, and renew their business license is one way the office can help. The business of farming is often conducted on the go and having the ability to easily conduct licensing and registration on their mobile devices from the tractor, pickup, or car is expected of state government. 

POWELL: There are three questions here, and there’s one thing I want to add first. Being a part of a union – and I am – preserves one’s individual power to call upon your sisters and brothers when you need support. Farmers Union or a professional or labor union – same protection. I’m running against a guy who is too, too wrapped up in the MAGA stuff to think about your individual rights. I’m running against a guy who represents the corporate side of farming. I will see things through your eyes in a way my competitors will not. 

I am frequently told the FirstStop changes to the Secretary of State website have made the site better but the rest of the website is cumbersome and antiquated. I work with software and implement software in my current role and it makes no sense to vote for someone who doesn’t work with software platforms before they become Secretary of State. I’m running against two guys who … struggle with Facebook, let alone have a map to improving the state government’s web presence. Better access to information is better for farmers, for ranchers, for all citizens, and my skill set is significantly better than the other two guys. 

TUTTLE: Farmers and ranchers are small businesses and we need to treat them as such. What does streamline really mean? We should treat all businesses in North Dakota the same. With our wealth (right now a $2.5 billion surplus according to Governor Burgum) we can lower everyone’s tax burden. It’s time we stop the unconstitutional use of property tax and require the legislature to follow the constitution and fully and properly fund our K-12 schools (article 10, first paragraph, Public Finance and Debt). We need to stop the excessive burden of regulations on all businesses. Make the required paperwork simple and direct to the point. Websites need to be very user-friendly. Lowering the tax burden and simplifying paperwork will make for a better business climate. Our farmers and ranchers have been doing this for years without government interference. They can be the best teacher on what needs to be done. We have to build a climate to let them thrive.

North Dakota has an extensive network of pipelines to transport oil, gas and other hazardous liquids. That authority also includes carbon dioxide pipelines. What will you do to ensure that all pipelines within the state are operated safely?

HAUGEN-HOFFART: As for direct safety oversite, this would be the Commission’s Pipeline Safety Program.  First thing to note about the program is that the Commission does not ensure ALL pipelines within the state are operated safely.  We have assumed safety responsibility from PHMSA for intrastate transmission, gathering, and distribution pipelines for natural gas, propane, other gases, and liquified natural gas.  The program does not have safety oversite over pipelines which transport any other commodities (i.e. ammonia, crude oil, gasoline, petroleum products, and CO2) at this point.  The Commission employs three Pipeline Safety Inspectors who are tasked with conducting inspections in accordance with various parts of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR).  These inspections, audits, and investigations are conducted in-person and remotely and at various time intervals and focus on different CFR areas that pipeline operators must adhere to for the safety and integrity of the public, their own employees, and their facilities. 

Also, through the One-Call Damage prevention program, the Commission responds to complaints of potential violations of the North Dakota One-Call Notification System Law and if a violation is found, levies a penalty against the offending party.  One-Call law not only protects all pipelines, but all underground/buried facilities.  The Commission does education and outreach of the One-Call/Damage Prevention program through billboard campaigns, 811 day at the state fair, and participates in the One-Call Board meetings to strongly encourage, call before you dig.

HAMMER: The first thing I would do to ensure safe operation of pipelines within North Dakota is vote “No” on any application for the Summit Carbon Solutions Midwest Carbon Express pipeline to operate as a common carrier/public utility with the power to take land by eminent domain. I would continue to be a “no” until the North Dakota State Legislature acts to take that option off the table for projects such as this that are so obviously not public utilities and have no public use.  

In traveling around the state, and particularly in those places where the pipeline would run, most residents I have talked to are either against the project entirely or are dissatisfied with Summit Carbon Solutions’ treatment of landowners. Rural North Dakotans in the pipeline’s path report deception regarding the status of leases on their neighbors’ land, unwillingness on Summit Carbon Solutions’ part to adjust the pipeline’s route to make it less disruptive or destructive to income-producing agricultural land, and insinuations that the company expects to be able to exercise eminent domain in the future. To me, this indicates a level of institutional hubris incompatible with a strong safety culture.

North Dakotans opposed to the project are not anti-ethanol or anti-agriculture. Some grow corn that would likely make its way to one of the ethanol plants. They are citizens who need the Public Service Commission to look out for their interests.

Of course, the Midwest Carbon Express would be one of many pipelines in North Dakota. As a Public Service Commissioner, I would work to ensure a robust safety audit and inspection program and would vote for meaningful consequences for pipeline safety violations.

North Dakota is currently experiencing a rail car shortage. As a Public Service Commissioner, how will you ensure that farmers and ranchers have access to affordable and reliable rail service?

HAMMER: In conjunction with the Federal Rail Administration, the Public Service Commission implements a Railroad Safety Program to help ensure safe operation and prevent accidents, injuries, and equipment failures on more than 3,000 miles of railway within the state. In the short term, the current rail car and railroad workforce shortages and the beginning of the harvest season make an effective rail safety program even more critical for North Dakota agriculture.

Without the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath, many of these difficulties would not exist, but we cannot operate as if it were a once-in-a-lifetime event. Long-term, more value-added ag processing in North Dakota would insulate us from the effects of future supply chain shortages and fluctuating energy industry demand for rail service. 

HAUGEN-HOFFART: Currently, there is no rail car shortage. As harvest ramps up it will be important to monitor service metrics and performance. Through the annual rail stakeholder meeting the PSC helps hold railroads of all sizes accountable for their service, bringing the operating railroads, commodity groups and customers together. Additionally, the PSC’s Railroad Safety Program helps provide reliable rail service to farmers and ranchers through cooperating with the FRA to conduct mechanical and track inspections for safety and reliability of operations in the state. I support the continuation of these efforts that ultimately benefit farmers and ranchers and will continue to work with railroads and all transportation partners to get the state’s agricultural commodities to markets.

North Dakota has an extensive network of pipelines to transport oil, gas and other hazardous liquids. That authority also includes carbon dioxide pipelines. What will you do to ensure that all pipelines within the state are operated safely?

FEDORCHAK: Safe pipelines are a shared responsibility between industry as well as several state and federal agencies. Most importantly, it begins with proper planning, permitting and construction. The PSC oversees that process on transmission pipelines through our site permitting.  We thoroughly review company plans, consult with two dozen state, federal and tribal agencies, hold public hearings and ultimately seek to designate a site that minimizes public impact. After permitting, we oversee the construction process through third party inspectors. Our oversight primarily focuses on minimizing environmental impacts,  good construction and effective reclamation. PHMSA is responsible for ongoing safety oversight of interstate  hazardous liquid transmission lines.  Pipelines are essential to our modern life and are  the best, most effective, most environmentally sound way to transport liquids. In my role as a Public Service Commissioner I work to hold companies to high standards for treating the land through which pipelines travel and the landowners who own it with great respect.

North Dakota is currently experiencing a rail car shortage. As a Public Service Commissioner, how will you ensure that farmers and ranchers have access to affordable and reliable rail service?

FEDORCHAK: The PSC was originally created as the Railroad Commission with the expressed purpose of regulating railroads. Overtime, that responsibility has been transferred by law to the FRA in the name of interstate commerce. We do have some remaining tools to leverage for the benefit of citizens. I helped create and oversee a state rail safety program aimed at reducing derailments that endanger the public and slow down traffic. We also have the ability to intervene on behalf of aggrieved producers with the STB. We have pursued that angle on occasion when other efforts fail. Most frequently we leverage our contacts and relationships with the railroads to solve congestion and service issues and implore them to provide quality service. We hold an annual stakeholder meeting between producer groups, elevators and railroads to discuss service and safety issues, and work with stakeholders throughout the year to address additional problems. 

NOTE: Melanie Moniz did not respond to Farmers Union’s questionaire.