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Doyle Johannes, Published March 14 2013

Letter: Editorial was not factual

I was very disappointed to read the editorial in the Wednesday, March 13, Forum. If The Forum had bothered to check with the North Dakota Farm Bureau, the editorial wouldn’t have contained so many inaccuracies. This was a one-sided opinion that came from a supporter or sponsor of SB 2211. I would like to clear up the false statements that were made.

The accusation that NDFB pulled a “stunt, or bait and switch” is simply not true. If anyone had bothered to check the record, they would have found that our testimony was almost exactly the same in both the Senate ag committee and the House ag committee NDFB continues to support a Class C felony charge for the animal cruelty section of the bill, and retain Class A misdemeanor charges in the other three sections (abuse, neglect and abandonment). We believe if acts that fall under those three sections are egregious enough, they would be covered under the cruelty section of the bill.

A Class A misdemeanor charge carries a significant penalty: up to a year in jail and a $2,000 fine. A class C felony carries up to five years in jail and a $5,000 fine.

NDFB has been upfront with the rest of the coalition as to our concerns with the subjective language in SB 2211. Three days before the hearing in the House ag committee, our legislative director told the coalition we were not going to support current language in the bill. Sen. Tim Flakoll’s charge that we surprised them is simply not true.

The statement that our members voted to “support the bill” is also false. NDFB’s voting delegates met in November 2012. This bill was not drafted until January 2013. Since it was drafted, it has gone through seven revisions. NDFB is a grass-roots policy development organization. Our members tell leadership what positions and direction to take to enhance their livelihoods.

When it was revealed at the House ag committee hearing that there were people in the audience who admitted they were from the Humane Society of the United States (the very organization that many ag organizations worked to defeat in Measure 5) and that they were coaching members of the coalition how to testify in front of the committee to pass this legislation, it was very clear to NDFB that we had to protect our producers.

NDFB has a proud history of advocating for agriculture in North Dakota for more than 70 years. We are one of the most respected organizations – despite unfounded accusations – to help legislators on issues in an honest and truthful manner. We will continue to maintain that trust by standing up for issues that might not be popular, but are in the best interest of the business of North Dakota agriculture.

Johannes, Underwood, N.D., is president of the North Dakota Farm Bureau.