HB 1048 – Keep protections for farmers on the books! (Updated 2/19)

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UPDATE – thanks to the noise we made about this bill, the Department of Agriculture is going to move an amendment to HB 1048 when it comes up in the Senate. We will blog again when we know the day it will come up. Thank you everyone!

HB 1048 is one of the “Red Tape Initiative” bills going through the legislature this year. For those of you who might not know, the initiative is something Governor Daugaard has been working on the past two years to get old or unused laws off the books. It is a state law cleanup, basically, and for the most part it has gone smoothly.

However, it came to our attention earlier this session that one of the laws being considered for removal is one that protects farmers from unannounced entry onto their land by crop patent holders, who would remove crops from a farmer’s land and test them for patent infringement. Right now, if a company like Monsanto or DuPont wants to test a farmer’s crop, they have to give notice to the farmer that they suspect patent infringement and ask the farmer for permission to enter their land. Another essential component of this law is it requires the company to disclose the results of the crop test within 30 days of taking the sample.

In states without such laws, farmers are subject to harassment, surprise lawsuits, and unannounced trespassers on their land. This law gives a framework for how farmers and investigators work together, alleviating many issues that come down the road when a farmer finds out their land rights have been violated.

This is particularly important as more small farmers look into organic production, and as young farmers look at starting their own operations. The stress associated with not knowing when someone may enter your land and take your crops is unnecessary, particularly when there are other ways of dealing with patent issues.

We will be working with the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee next week to amend this bill, keeping SDLC 38-1-44 through 38-1-50 as law in South Dakota. In our discussions with the Department of Agriculture, they have said they are not opposed to looking at keeping this law; we are hopeful that over the next week we can ensure the Department understands the importance of having such farmer protections in statute. We would urge you to call the Department at 605.773.5425 and discuss your concerns regarding this law with them. Talk with either Secretary Bones or Courtney De La Rosa, the department’s policy director.

We’ll update this blog when the bill is scheduled, and will let you know how the amendment effort goes!

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