Divide and conquer is defined as to make a group of people disagree and fight with one another so that they will not join together. The term originated 1200 years before Julius Caeser claimed to have defined it in the development of the Roman Empire.

For the purpose of this message, we are not talking about divide and conquer in the light of war but in the light of politics. In politics and sociology, divide and conquer is defined as gaining and maintaining power by breaking up larger concentrations of power into pieces that individually have less power than the one implementing the strategy.

This strategy is getting more evident as we see less and less competition in our marketplace.  We are seeing monopolistic practices develop through oligopolies. These practices show up in pricing of our products and our supplies. They use the strategy of divide and conquer to keep us from uniting to find the necessary avenues to better price our products or reduce our expenses.

Along with the strategy, many monopolistic companies infiltrate our farmer and rancher commodity groups to further their ability to influence important decisions. They like to deceive farmers by telling them that without these companies, there would be no market at all.

Sadly, I am seeing this same divide and conquer strategy showing up in some general farm and ranch organizations. There are factions within these organizations whose goal is to be protective of their own small world or commodity, dividing up and taking away support of all family farms and ranches. This is happening while others around us are being challenged as much if not more. Our organization, North Dakota Farmers Union, is committed to all family farms and ranches.

I hate to admit the divide and conquer strategy is effective with farmers and ranchers. We were the ones that were united, formed cooperatives and found the avenues necessary to achieve better results. Today, we internally and externally fight about farm practices, organic vs. non-organic, GMO vs. non-GMO, conventional farming vs. regenerative farming, small vs. big and the list continues all at the cost of a slow drain of family farms and ranches from the land.

Our government is not immune to this concept of divide and conquer. Politicians continuously find the most divisive single issue to take the focus away from the better picture of enhancing our citizens’ lives.

We recently received a letter at the office that was so harsh, it really reinforced for me that divide and conquer was effective. It suggested the family farm and ranch is gone. It further suggested that if farmers and ranchers go broke or choose to take their own life, it is their own fault that they chose to farm or ranch the way they did. I will not accept this. Only if we come together in the interest of all will we thrive and overcome the obstacles to keep independent family farms and ranches on the land.

I will leave you with this challenge: It is time farmers and ranchers, regardless of how we choose to farm, get beyond the internal fighting of who is correct at styles of family farming and ranching. We need to focus on the things that keep family farmers and ranchers on the land. It is time we ignore those who are telling us how to farm and ranch only to serve their own interests.

– NDFU President Mark Watne