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Politics & Government

Ag commissioner candidates debate

Dave Thompson
Prairie Public

Last night’s debate between the two candidates for North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner featured a number of areas of agreement on ag policy.

But there were some skirmishes as well.

The candidates both oppose Measure Five. That measure is dubbed the “Clean Water, Parks and Conservation Measure.” It would take five percent of the state’s oil extraction tax.

Incumbent Commissioner Doug Goehring (R) said the measure is too expensive.

"We're looking at a Constitutional measure that will take about $150 million a year, over 25 years," said Goehring. "That would be billions of dollars, which could be used for property tax relief, schools and roads."

Goehring says the state already has a statutory Heritage Fund, which could be added to to meet the needs.

"That's easily enough done," said Goehring.

Goehring’s Democratic opponent, Ryan Taylor, also opposes the measure – but said he didn’t want to – as he put it – "kick the conservation community in the shins."

"We have a lot of people in North Dakota that demand, use and appreciate what we provide," said Taylor. "Open spaces, clean water, a place to hunt, a place to fish. We know that North Dakota is mostly private lands. And I'm the person who could bring those groups together."

Later in his answer, Taylor criticized his opponent.

"I don't know if we'll see that same kind of leadership -- if we look at the history of my opponent, working at Nodak Mutual Insurance, having an important insurance company that had to be taken over by the Insurance Commissioner," said Taylor. "If we look at a department (Agriculture) with a 70 percent turnover -- I don't know if this is a record of bringing people together."

Goehring said Taylor was being “disingenuous.”

"When you look at it over time, it's an average of 10 percent," said Goehring. "If you accumulate enough years, yeah, you can get 70 percent. But other departments in the state have higher turnover than we do."

Goehring said Taylor was counting people who had retired or died.

"I don't think that's very fair, and I don't think it's very nice," said Goehring.

The debate was sponsored by a number of farm organizations. It was carried live on the radio service of Prairie Public.