What makes a constitutional amendment?

As I’ve made perfectly clear in the past, I am in favor of Measure 3, the North Dakota Constitutional amendment that would protect farming and ranching and modern practices employed by farmers and ranchers.

I want to address one of the concerns that is being brought up by the only vocal agricultural group in opposition to this measure…the North Dakota Farmer’s Union.

First of all, as a member of Farmer’s Union (I’m a member of Farm Bureau as well), let me tell you that I’m extremely disappointed and concerned regarding the stance they have on this measure. It’s becoming more of a school-ground bullying match than fact-sharing, and it’s not what being in agriculture is all about.

Enough about that, let’s get to the issue. Opponents of the measure keep declaring that the constitutional amendment is too vague. Practices aren’t specified and there are no restrictions for negligence.

Why did I highlight constitutional amendment? Because that’s what this is…a change to our state constitution, that would protect the heritage that makes North Dakota the great state that it is, that provides food, fiber and fuel for the world.

The amendment needs to be broad enough to stand the test of time, allowing society to advance and our state constitution to stay current, even when we can’t imagine what the next century may bring.

Let’s take a look at another constitutional amendment:

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.


Wait a minute…how could that amendment have been passed? It doesn’t state that you can’t use weapons negligently. It doesn’t state that you are limited to muskets and cannons only. So, surely, it must have been voted down and didn’t stand the test of time, right?

How about another one:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.


Geez, that one didn’t pass either, did it? I mean, it doesn’t specifically state that I can’t call someone a few choice words in a newspaper ad that runs across the country. Oh, wait…but I can’t, can I? Not without the other person having legal recourse.

No, constitutional amendments are NOT about specifying exactly what it is you can or cannot do, it’s about upholding the wishes of the people of the state, for generations to come. It allows flexibility for growth and changes that are made by society, yet it protects the basic rights that we should be entitled to…and that includes our agricultural heritage.

With these rights come expectations, regulations and limitations, it does not, nor will it ever, trample on the rights and freedoms of others. It allows for the legal protection of our way of life and direction for those that are making the laws that will govern our future societies.

Please, do not tell me that Measure 3 is too vague in its wording, and needs to have specifics put in place.

Although, all I can do is ask, because there’s already an amendment that allows you that right.

14 thoughts on “What makes a constitutional amendment?

    • But that’s the word that changes with the times. If we specify what each practice is allowed, we tie the hands of our future. Yet Measure 5 is a great example of what could happen if we don’t protect our future. What if someone comes in a pushes a ballot measure that prohibits the use of raw materials on our farms? Many farms use manure as a fertilizer, organic, conventional, etc. It doesn’t matter the size or scope…yet people in urban areas may not understand. Ads are run, money talks, and we are defending our ability to provide food for ourselves, as well as our neighbors. It’s happening, all across the country. Which part of “modern” bothers you?

      • Whose definition of modern will be used? What if how I choose to farm is not considered modern? I agree that the definition of modern will change with the times. But I fear the limits that that word will bring…

        I completely understand the impetus of this measure, I do. And I certainly don’t want HSUS (or anyone else) to dictate policy. But as someone who farms in a different manner, my farm may not be protected on the basis of the definition of the word “modern”.

      • I agree completely with Jeff’s explanation. It doesn’t dictate how you have to farm, it just guarantees the right to have those options. It doesn’t involve zoning rights, or size of operation, just practices that are applied and methods that are used. As we all know, what works for one operation doesn’t always work for another. Yet, together, we all work towards supplying our best products for those that want them. I could only imagine that our forefathers would find it silly that we even have to discuss these issues, but we all know what’s been happening across the country. And I have to disagree with you…your farm is definitely “modern.” How do I figure? You’re supplying a current product to a consumer who specifically is requesting your product. You’re supplying what’s being demanded, no matter what methods you’re using. According to Merriam-Webster modern means: involving recent techniques, methods, or ideas. Grass-fed isn’t necessarily a “new” idea, but it is a “modern” idea, in as much as the fact that people are requesting it today.

      • Hello Annie. To answer your question about what if somebody determines the practices you use on your farm are not “modern,” the answer is very simple. Measure 3 doesn’t require ANYONE to utilize ANY modern practice. It only protects THE RIGHT TO USE such practices and technology. If you choose to farm with mules, this measure doesn’t prevent you from doing so. It is NOT a mandate on the use of anything. It simple safeguards the right to use these things.

      • As Chris noted below, it would be up to the courts to decide what would qualify as modern. If it gets to the courts, a small farm like ours has already lost.

        What protections do townships or counties have to determine what is best for their communities? If a farmer wanted to put in a 10,000 cow dairy and that county didn’t want it, would they be able to stop it? Not according to this measure.

      • Actually, that would be a zoning issue, and many counties and townships have already set their own zoning laws and regulations. Again, just as we have limitations and regulations with the first and second amendments to our US Constitution, there are limits and expectations that will come with this amendment as well. Without some steps to protect agriculture, we’ll all lose.

      • But aren’t zoning laws subject to state law? In effect, wouldn’t this amendment dictate new laws or revisions from this point forward?

      • Actually, townships can zone more strictly than state law. Many townships just choose not to have their own zoning codes, because they are already blanket-protected through the county and state. And we can’t forget, EPA and the permit process is still a requirement for all CAFO’s. That’s already in place and wouldn’t be changed.

  1. I think your logic is pretty straight here. It is up to the courts to parse the details. It also has me thinking how absolutely brilliant the 1st Amendment to the Constitution really was, word for word.

    • Thanks, Chris…your nod of approval means a lot. Sometimes I see things and don’t understand why people can’t see it the same way. I’m happy to know that I was able to express that clearly!

  2. Excellent point. Love the comparison between the original amendment and the concern over measure 3. After reading the other comments however I can understand some of the concerns listed. I still feel that this is a well written post with excellent follow up.

    • Yes, I do understand concerns, and I love having questions asked, so that I can better understand and do more research myself. Thank you for the compliment on the post…I’m glad that some of my writing is at least somewhat useful, if not entertaining! 🙂

  3. Pingback: Today’s the day | ND Feeding Families

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