The office of commissioner of agriculture and labor was established in the North Dakota Constitution of 1889. In 1964, voters amended the constitution, dividing the office into two entities – commissioner of agriculture and commissioner of labor, and lengthening the term of office from two years to four. The title of the office was changed agriculture commissioner by a constitutional amendment, approved by the voters in 1996.
|Commissioners of Agriculture and Labor|
|Henry T. Helgesen||1889-1892|
|Andrew H. Laughlin||1895-1896|
|Henry U. Thomas||1897-1900|
|Rollin J. Turner||1901-1904|
|William c. Gilbreath||1905-1914|
|Robert F. Flint||1915-1916|
|John N. Hagan||1917-1921|
|Joseph A. Kitchen||1921-1932|
|John N. Hagan||1937-1938|
|Commissioner of Agriculture|
|H. Kent Jones||1981-1988|
|Sarah M. Vogel||1989-1997|
Duties and Responsibilities
Originally, the commissioner’s principal duties were the collection and publication of agricultural and labor statistics and enforcement of regulations. The commissioner was also the commissioner of immigration. Over the span of a century, the responsibilities of the department expanded to include a leadership role in the formulation of policies affecting the state’s agricultural industries, the advocacy of the needs and concerns of farmers and ranchers on the state and national levels, the administration of fair and timely mediation services to farmers and ranchers, the promotion and marketing of North Dakota products and the dissemination of information concerning agricultural issues to the governor, Legislature and the general public. (The collection and publication of statistics is now the responsibility of the North Dakota Agricultural Statistics Service.)
The powers and duties of the agriculture commissioner “must be prescribed by law,” according to Article V, Section 2 of the State Constitution. The following responsibilities are set forth in various sections of the North Dakota Century Code:
Gathering and disseminating statistical information on agricultural marketing problems of the state and engage in marketing services of agricultural products §4-01-19.
- Regulation of dairy and poultry industries §4-30 and §4-13.2.
- Licensing and bonding of livestock auction markets and individuals selling livestock §36-04 and §36-05.
- Control and eradication of bee diseases and licensing of beekeepers §4-12.2.
- Development, supervision and participation in and of programs to protect plant life from disease and insects §4-32-01 and §4-33.
- Administration of a mediation service to resolve differences between financially distressed farmers and their creditors, between landowners and energy development interests, and between producers and the Game and Fish Department relative to deer depredation §6-09.10 and §20.1-02-05.
- Inspection, certification and licensing of nurseries, nursery dealers and agents §4-21.1.
- Administration and enforcement of state and federal pesticide laws §4-35.
- Administration of noxious weed laws §63-10.1.
- Monitoring compliance with established standards by organic producers §4-38.
- Promotion of honey and honey products §4-01-8.
- Administration of the Agriculture in the Classroom program §4-37.
- Cooperating with federal agencies in controlling animals that cause property damage §4-01-17.1.
- Administration of the State Waterbank program §61-31.
- Promotion of the turkey industry and turkey products. §4-1-12.
- Administration of the cultivated ginseng law. §4-39.
- Registration of crop protection products with Canadian labels §4-40.
- Licensing of industrial hemp growers §4-41.
- Registration of animal feeds and licensing and regulation of animal feed products §19-13.1.
- Registration and regulation of livestock medicines §19-14.
- Registration of and regulation of the sale of pesticides §19-18.
- Registration of and enforcement of laws pertaining to fertilizers and soil conditioners §19-20.1.
- Licensing of anhydrous ammonia facilities and enforcing laws related to the storage and handling of anhydrous ammonia §19-20.2.
- Administration of the state meat and poultry inspection program.
- Administration of a source-verified and process-verified beef marketing program.
- Monitoring federal statutory and regulatory actions related to the slaughter of horses, mules, and other equines, §4-01-28