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Erik Burgess, Published March 14 2014

Ag commissioner candidate Taylor pledges to stand up for farmers, ranchers during oil boom

FARGO – A cattle rancher and former state senator threw his cowboy hat into the race for state agriculture commissioner on Friday, saying he wouldn’t be a “rubber stamp for out-of-state oil barons.”

Ryan Taylor, of Towner, announced he is seeking the Democratic-NPL endorsement for state agriculture commissioner in a news conference in Fargo.

Taylor was introduced by state Rep. Ron Guggisberg, D-Fargo, as “the man who’s going to bring balance to the Industrial Commission,” the state board that oversees oil and gas development. The three-person board includes the governor, the attorney general and the agriculture commissioner – seats now all held by Republicans, Gov. Jack Dalrymple, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring.

Wearing the white cowboy hat that was his signature in a losing bid to unseat Dalrymple as governor in 2012, Taylor said agriculture is still the state’s No. 1 industry and it’s “shocking” how little is heard about the oil boom’s impact on agriculture.

“You can’t unleash all that oil and then wonder why the train tracks are full of oil tankers and you can’t get grain on from the elevators in North Dakota and get that product to market,” Taylor said.

Taylor said he decided to run not long after an oil train and a soybean train collided in a fiery derailment just outside of Casselton in December. It symbolized the way the two industries have collided in the state, he said.

“I will not be a rubber stamp for out-of-state oil barons. I’ll stand up for North Dakota,” he said.

Taylor said he believes the ag commissioner race will be “very competitive,” and that he’s already got a statewide network set up from his run for governor.

Goehring faces an intraparty challenge for the Republican Party endorsement, but Taylor said he decided to run “long before” that battle began.

Republican Judy Estenson of Warwick announced her candidacy in February.

The North Dakota Farm Bureau is supporting Estenson over Goehring, saying it has lost confidence in Goehring.

Taylor said he believes something is “amiss” in the Agriculture Department.

During the four full years Goehring has spent in office, 43 of the agency’s 61 permanent employees have left, according to the department and the state’s Human Resource Management Services.

Without saying Goehring’s name, Taylor said leadership is to blame.

“It always boils down to leadership and employees knowing that the person leading them is one that they want to work for,” Taylor said.

The chairman of the North Dakota Republican Party said in a statement Friday that he is surprised Taylor is running for ag commissioner because the rancher entered into a two-year fellowship with the Bush Foundation in May.

“Campaigns are about ideas and policies that move North Dakota forward,” Robert Harms said. “Voters of North Dakota already rejected Taylor’s views two years ago during his failed run for governor, when he barely tallied one-third of the vote.”

Dalrymple won in 2012 election with 63 percent of the vote.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518