North Dakota Herdshare Bill Signed Into Law

By Pete Kennedy, Esq.

On April 29 herdshares become officially legal in North Dakota when Governor Jack Dalrymple signed Senate Bill 2072 into law. SB2072 provides that “it is not a violation [of law] to transfer or obtain raw milk under a shared animal ownership agreement.”

Shared animal ownership is defined in the bill as “any contractual arrangement under which an individual:

a. Acquires an ownership interest in a milk-producing animal;
b. Agrees to pay another for, reimburse another for, or otherwise accept financial responsibility for the care and boarding of the milk-producing animal at the dairy farm; and
c. Is entitled to receive a proportionate share of the animal’s raw milk production as a condition of the contractual arrangement.”

The original version of SB 2072 did not contain a provision on herdshares; the bill only amended the state dairy code to adopt the latest revision of the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance (PMO), which governs the production and sale of pasteurized milk in the U.S.

After the bill passed the Senate, North Dakota Department of Agriculture (NDDA) Dairy Director Wayne Carlson intended to introduce an amendment to SB 2072 banning herdshare agreements in the House Agriculture Committee. Raw milk proponents had advance notice of the amendment and were able to convince the committee to adopt instead an amendment expressly legalizing herdshares.

To ensure that NDDA does not attempt to undercut herdshare agreements in the future, the new law contains a section stating, “. . . the commissioner may not adopt any rule that restricts, limits or imposes additional requirements on any individual transferring or obtaining raw milk in accordance with the terms of a share animal ownership agreement.”

With a possible eye towards legalizing the sale of raw milk in North Dakota, SB 2072 calls for a group referred to as “legislative management” to “consider studying the availability of raw or unpasteurized milk, for human consumption, in this state.” The group is to report its findings and recommendations along with any proposed legislation to implement those recommendations to the legislature next session.

North Dakota now joins Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Tennessee and Wyoming as states that have officially legalized herdshares by either statute or regulation; earlier this year the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development adopted a written policy recognizing the legality of herdshare agreements.

Pete Kennedy

Pete Kennedy is an attorney from Sarasota, Florida and president of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (farmtoconsumer.org). He compiled the state milk laws posted at realmilk.com. He advises many farmers and members about legal issues surrounding raw milk.

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