FARGO, N.D. (AP) — The sale of a couple thousand acres of prime North Dakota farmland to a group tied to Bill Gates has stirred emotions over a Depression-era law meant to protect family farms and raised questions about whether the billionaire shares the state’s values.
Gates is considered the largest private owner of farmland in the country with some 269,000 acres across dozens of states, according to last year’s edition of the Land Report 100, an annual survey of the nation’s largest landowners. He owns less than 1 percent of the nation’s total farmland.
The state’s attorney general has asked the trust that acquired the North Dakota land to explain how it plans to use it in order to meet rules outlined in the state’s archaic anti-corporate farming law. It prohibits all corporations or limited liability companies from owning or leasing farmland or ranchland, with some exceptions.
“I don’t know that it’s quite as volatile a situation as some have depicted,” North Dakota Republican Attorney General Drew Wrigley told The Associated Press Thursday. “It’s taken off, it’s all over the planet, but it’s not me sticking a finger in the eye of Bill Gates. That’s not what this is.”
Meanwhile, the state’s Agriculture Commissioner, Republican Doug Goehring, told a North Dakota TV station that many people feel they are being exploited by the ultra-rich who buy land but do not necessarily share the state’s values. About 2100 acres (849.84 hectares) of land were sold in the deal, AgWeek reported.
Goehring, who is currently on a state-sponsored trade mission to the United Kingdom, did not immediately respond to a list of questions emailed by the AP.
“I’ve gotten a big earful on this from clear across the state, it’s not even from that neighborhood,” Goehring told KFYR-TV. “Those people are upset, but there are others that are just livid about this.”
Charles V. Zehren, a spokesman for Gates’ investment firm, declined Thursday to comment to the AP.
Wrigley said the corporate farming inquiry goes out “as a matter of course” when his office is notified of farmland sales, in this case Red River Trust’s $13.5 million purchase of property in two counties from wealthy northeastern North Dakota potato growers Campbell Farms. Phone calls to Campbell Farms went unanswered.
“It’s meant to get everybody up to speed on what the ownership arrangement is and what their intentions are for the land,” Wrigley said. “If it complies with state law, the matter goes forward. If not, they’re informed they’re going to have to divest of the land.”
Corporations are exempted from the law if the land is necessary “for residential or commercial development; the siting of buildings, plants, facilities, industrial parks, or similar business or industrial purposes of the corporation or limited liability company; or for uses supportive of or ancillary to adjacent non agricultural land for the benefit of both land parcels,” the law reads.
It’s not the first test for a statute that was passed in 1932. A federal judge in 2018 ruled the law constitutional after a conservative farm group argued that it limits business options for producers and interferes with interstate commerce by barring out-of-state corporations from being involved in North Dakota’s farm industry.
North Dakota Republican Gov. Doug Burgum, a former Microsoft executive whose campaign received $100,000 from Microsoft co-founder Gates when Burgum first won in 2016, declined to comment on the farmland sale. The Republican governor stayed down the middle when asked his opinion of the anti-corporate farming law, which he and the Legislature expanded in 2019 to allow second cousins in the mix of ownership.
“The governor strongly supports family farms and is open to discussions about cutting red tape that puts North Dakota farmers at a disadvantage compared with neighboring states and ensuring that our ranchers and farmers can succeed and grow their operations, helping rural communities to thrive,” Burgum spokesman Mike Nowatzki said.
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Once we acknowledge that over 80% of Canadians live in cities (and even more of us don’t care much about poor people in other areas of the world) it’s much easier to understand why the average Canadian isn’t far more upset with the government’s initiative to coerce farmers into cutting back on fertilizer use. As complex as the formulas are for estimating pollution amounts, there’s also a very simple way to understand this government initiative. It might help to simplify this situation as much as possible. In order to help reduce Canada’s share (about 1%) of global emissions (which a ton of scientists swear is making the world hotter.. Sorry not hotter.. but more climate changy…which actually somehow means worse for everyone everywhere) the government is strongly urging farmers to use less fertilizer and thereby produce less food.
Why would a farmer (who is a business operator) want to produce less food (which is the product farmers sell to feed the world)? That would be a tough sell. Until now, farmers have always taken pride in producing the best possible crops using the lowest possible inputs (all the expenses from gas to seed to fertilizer, etc). Who wouldn’t? It’s how they make their money. Perhaps that’s why governments are coming out with programs that will pay farmers not to farm quite so much. Right here in Alberta there’s a program that could pay an individual farmer up to $75,000.00 to cut back and be a better producer for people living 100 years from now.
Sure. That may sound a little offside when you consider global food shortages (another term for starving people) are expected to increase drastically in the coming months. You see the world is always somewhere between a little short of food and desperately short of food (depending on where you live you might feel more ‘desperate’ than inconvenienced). A simple minded person like myself might say “Why would we mess with this system that is feeding more people successfully than at any other time in world history?” Silly me. These guys are way beyond that simple thinking. That’s why the government isn’t asking farmers to consider what’s happening in the world right now. The government is asking farmers to consider what ‘might’ happen sometime in the future.
Apparently in order to create a world with a more predictable (and apparently safe) climate, we should be OK if we have to sacrifice a few million (or multiple hundred million) eaters (another word for people) in the coming months and years.
Relax Canada. We’re almost surely not going to miss a meal. Yah, we might have to double or triple down at the grocery store, but just think of that perfect summer day in the future. You’ll be so happy when your child gleefully watches your grandchild in their paper swim suit splash away in the baby pool that’s in the driveway where the car used to be out front of the rental (we won’t be allowed to drive to the beach anymore but it won’t be a big deal because we won’t have cars anyway!) Too bad you can’t be there in person because you can’t travel because you’re still getting that ESG score back up after that trip to see the kids a couple years back. Too bad you can’t use that cool social media app to see what it looked like because you accidentally typed Turdo instead of Trudeau six months ago (stupid spellcheck).
Just think. No more storms. No more pesky record high or low temperatures. And water levels remain constant year in and year out. It’s going to be awesome (for all the descendants of the people who get to eat in the next couple of years). Maybe we’ll build a statue to honour today’s fearless leaders who are so smart they have realized that it’s NOT THEIR JOB TO PROTECT THE PEOPLE WHO VOTE FOR THEM TODAY, but to CREATE A BETTER FUTURE FOR THOSE NOT ALIVE YET WHO CAN AFFORD TO SURVIVE 5o and 100 and 1000 years from now! We’ll certainly inscribe it with something like “These guys weren’t afraid to crack a few eggs to make this omelette. Hope you enjoy omelettes!” I think the perfect location to put that statue will be Davos. I hear it’s beautiful.
I digress. As a journalistic endeavour we should present both sides of thinking on this initiative to teach those simple farmers and their university educated consultants how to farm better with less fertilizer and more crop rotation, etc. (I’m still amazed farmers didn’t already figure this out for themselves, but I bow to those worldly thinkers who make these plans on our behalf. Again ‘our’ would be the lucky people who will be inconvenienced by less food / more expensive food, and not so much the millions who might starve to death.) Anyway, a few thoughts from Agriculture Canada, followed by an informative (and entertaining) video presentation from a very well known Saskatchewan farmer.
These statement have been pulled from the “Discussion Document: Reducing emissions arising from the application of fertilizer in Canada’s agriculture sector” on the federal government’s website. You can read it all here but I’ve pulled a couple of statements to help explain the brilliant future forward thinking that goes into plans like this.
” In December 2020, the Government of Canada announced its Strengthened Climate Plan, “A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy.” It includes a number of measures affecting the agriculture sector, with a goal to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and increase carbon sequestration. This discussion paper addresses one of these measures: a national target to reduce absolute levels of GHG emissions arising from fertilizer application by 30% below 2020 levels by 2030.
Agriculture was responsible for approximately 10% of Canada’s GHG emissions in 2019, or 73 Mt CO2, which come from three main sources: enteric fermentation (24Mt), crop production (24Mt) , and on-farm fuel use (14Mt) (National Inventory Report, 2021.) Based on current data for 2019, emissions from synthetic fertilizers accounted for 12.75 Mt. While many players in the agriculture sector are already working to improve nutrient management and reduce emissions associated with crop production, fertilizers are responsible for a growing share of overall agricultural emissions.
Since the release of Canada’s Strengthened Climate Plan, the Government of Canada has moved swiftly to implement its key aspects in order to create jobs, grow the economy and protect the planet. In April 2021, in line with its obligations under the Paris Agreement, the Government of Canada announced a new GHG emissions reduction target of 40-45% below 2005 levels by 2030. This target, along with other developments such as the passage of the Canadian Net Zero Emissions Accountability Act, which enshrines in legislation Canada’s commitment to achieve net-zero emissions across the Canadian economy by 2050, highlights the need to reduce absolute GHG emissions across all economic sectors, including agriculture.
This part is really interesting because it shows how fertilizer use is far more intense in Quebec and the Maritime provinces, though the bulk of the reductions will have to take place in Western Canada anyway. You know, because.. even though western farmers use less, there are more of them so they actually use more, plus they’re farther away from Ottawa and have less representation per capita.. what was I saying?
Fertilizer induced emissions are not spatially or temporally uniform across Canadian agricultural landscapes. The seasonal pattern of N2O emissions reflects the interaction between soil temperature, soil water and nitrate availability. Drier regions of the Prairies have much lower N2O losses than the moister regions of Eastern Canada. N2O emissions per hectare are greater in Eastern Canada as a result of the wetter climate and greater N application rates. However, the much larger land area in the Prairies vs. Eastern Canada results in greater total N fertilizer application in the Prairies and thus the total emissions are much higher in this region.
It is important to note that the strategies required to achieve the 30% N2O emission reduction objective will vary across the country as the emissions reduction potential is impacted by biophysical factors (soil type, soil humidity, climate), crop types, and climate change impacts.Footnote3
Figure 3 illustrates the differences between the fertilizer induced emissions patterns across the country, showing N2O emissions per hectare in 2018. The intensity of fertilizer emissions (emissions per ha) is higher east of Saskatchewan, indicating that more fertilizer is applied per hectare, resulting in more direct emissions on a per-acre basis. In addition, wetter conditions in the East result in more direct and indirect emissions.
This part clearly explains how regions that use less fertilizer may be asked to cut back even more than regions using a lot more per capita, because.. because. Also it encourages farmers to stop pouring fertilizer out into the ditch and then grab a pinch and throw it over their right shoulder.
Objectives of the National Target for Fertilizer Emissions
In order to achieve a concrete reduction in overall emissions, the target is established relative to absolute emissions rather than emissions intensity. The Government of Canada has been clear that the objective of the national target for fertilizers is to reduce emissions, and that the primary method to achieve this is not to establish a mandatory reduction in fertilizer use that isn’t linked to improved efficiency and maintaining or improving yields. Rather, the goal is to maximize efficiency, optimize fertilizer use, encourage innovation, and to work collaboratively with the agriculture sector, partners and stakeholders in identifying opportunities that will allow us to successfully reach this target.
OK. I don’t expect you were able to understand most of that. But they did their best to explain to those of us who aren’t as good as planning future world scenarios as they are. Now that you see the way our fearless leaders think, in the interest of journalistic integrity we’ll show you what one simple farmer thinks of being urged to use less fertilizer. If you haven’t seen QDM before, please note he sometimes uses very descriptive adjectives (sometimes he turns them into verbs and nouns too) which might be a tad harsh for the younger folk. Please enjoy with a grain of salt and a malted beverage.
How many Canadians are aware of the massive protests taking place around the world today? Or if you are aware of the protests, do you know what’s at the root of the upheaval? No matter how much faith you have in our legacy media you will have to admit even if you agree with the way they present information, they do seem to completely leave out some really important issues altogether.
Granted, there’s so much going on the shear amount of upheaval taking place around the globe is certainly hard to keep up with. This simple meme adapted from a photo of the leaders of the G8 taken just a couple of weeks ago shows that British leader Boris Johnson and Italian leader Mario Draghi are already gone and asks “Who is next?”
Considering the war in Ukraine, the fall of Boris Johnson, and our own inflation maybe it’s no surprise we find little ‘mainstream’ information out there about the farmer protests. But these are far too important for us to ignore. At least two nations are undergoing demonstrations that make Canada’s Freedom Convoy appear quaint in comparison. In the Netherlands, tens of thousands of farmers have been protesting, sometimes violently for months now. In Sri Lanka discontent has been ramping up since the springtime. While issues as diverse as inflation and the war in Ukraine are sited as causes, the root of the unrest in both countries comes down to the way their governments are treating farmers.
In the short videos and articles shared below, we set out to give you a much better understanding of what is happening, and most importantly, why.
First up, Dutch farmers angered by government plans that may require them to use less fertilizer and reduce livestock blocked a highway as part of a day of protests in the Netherlands this week.
“Zijn er ook boeren?” shouted Mick Jagger, in Dutch, into the microphone at a Rolling Stones concert in the Netherlands last week. “Are there any farmers in the house?”
Dutch farmers make for an unlikely cause célèbre. For starters, most are conservative, not liberal. And they are fighting against stricter environmental regulations, not for them.
Yet they are winning over liberal-minded people like me who sympathize with the family farmers who provide us with our daily bread and yet receive so little respect from society’s ruling elites.
And now they’re inspiring protests by other farmers across Europe, including in Germany, Poland and Italy. Along with the protests that brought down the government of Sri Lanka, they constitute a growing global revolt against green elites.
I have praised the current Dutch government for being sensible on matters like climate change. Last year it embraced nuclear energy, one of the first Western nations to do so since the 2011 Fukushima accident spooked the world.
But the government’s poor treatment of its farmers has shocked me. The prime minister recently called the protesting farmers “a – – holes,” and sniffed, “It is not acceptable to create dangerous situations.” And yet it was a Dutch police officer, not a farmer, who inexplicably fired on a 16-year-old boy driving a tractor. Luckily, he wasn’t injured.
While nitrogen pollution worsens climate change, the government says its main motivation for reducing it is about protecting its nature areas. Scientists say that in 118 of 162 of the Netherlands’ nature preserves nitrogen deposits are 50% higher than they should be.
Without a doubt the Dutch should do more to protect their nature areas. The country produces four times more nitrogen pollution than the European average, due to its intensive animal agriculture.
The Netherlands is the largest exporter of meat in Europe and the second largest exporter of food overall after the United States, a remarkable feat for a nation half the size of Indiana. Food exports generate more than $100 billion a year in revenue. Experts attribute the nation’s success to its farmers’ embrace of technological innovation.
But even many on the political left say the government demands are too extreme, based on radical green fantasies and dodgy science. “It seems to be very fast,” saidWim de Vries, a professor at Wageningen University and Research who 10 years ago made alarmist claims about “planetary boundaries.”
What, exactly, is going on?
Michael Shellenberger is the author of “Apocalypse Never” and a Time Magazine “Hero of the Environment.”
The situation in Sri Lanka is even more volatile where food shortages are already affecting 1 in 5 people and threatening the majority of the remaining population. The situation this week turned extremely dangerous as massive crowds forced the President to resign. More on that below.
Sri Lanka’s agriculture minister forced to flee premises after being jeered by farmers: Report
COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s Agriculture Minister Mahinda Amaraweera on Saturday was jeered by a group of farmers who protested his visit to an agriculture-related programme in Tissamaharama, a town situated in the country’s southern province in Hambantota district, forcing him to flee the premises.
Amaraweera visited the Tissamaharama Divisional Secretariat on Saturday to attend an agriculture-related programme.
Upon his arrival, a group of angry locals, consisting mostly of farmers, gathered opposite the local government body and staged a protest, according to web portal newsfirst.lk.
When the minister attempted to inquire, chaos broke out forcing the minister to flee the premises, the report added.
Sri Lanka’s economic meltdown has taken a severe toll on the agricultural sector.
A blanket ban on the use of chemical fertilisers imposed by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in April 2021 has caused a crippling blow to rice production in the country.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has predicted that by September this year, around four to five million out of the country’s 22 million population could be directly affected by food shortage.
In such a grim scenario, farmers across the island nation have been forced to abandon their fields.
Earlier this week, the Cabinet also approved a move to grant government officials one leave per week for the next three months to engage in agriculture to mitigate the approaching food crisis.
The Sri Lanka Army will also take part in a farming drive aimed at cultivating over 1,500 acres of barren or abandoned state land to multiply food production and avert any shortage in the future, newsfirst.lk reported.
Sri Lanka which is facing its worst economic crisis since independence from Britain in 1948.
The economic crisis has led to an acute shortage of essential items like food, medicine, cooking gas, fuel and toilet paper, with Sri Lankans being forced to wait in lines for hours outside stores to buy fuel and cooking gas.
The nearly bankrupt country, with an acute foreign currency crisis that resulted in foreign debt default, announced in April that it is suspending nearly USD 7 billion foreign debt repayment due for this year out of about USD 25 billion due through 2026.
Sri Lanka’s total foreign debt stands at USD 51 billion.
This report from Aljazeera dated March 30, 2022 shows how this hunger crisis has been brewing for months.
This week massive crowds stormed the Presidential Secretariat and then the Presidential House resulting in the President leaving the country and stepping down.
Here’s a report on the fall of the government from Sky News