BISMARCK – Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring will tell a major U.S.-Canadian petroleum conference that North Dakota is taking action to ensure that agriculture and oil exploration can mutually coexist.

“While the oil and gas industry generates some $12 billion, both directly and indirectly in North Dakota, agriculture remains the number one industry, generating approximately $30 billion,” says Goehring. “The very quick run-up to unprecedented levels of exploration and production have put a strain on infrastructure from roads and bridges, to housing, utilities, schools and law enforcement.”

Goehring, a member of the North Dakota Industrial Commission, is one of the opening session speakers at the 19th Williston Basin Petroleum Conference, Sunday through Tuesday, in Regina, Sask. The annual conference brings together petroleum company representatives, scientists, government officials and others involved in petroleum activities in the Williston Basin.

Goehring will tell the group that the recently concluded session of the State Legislature resulted in better laws protecting surface owners.

“The Landowners Bill of Rights provides new guidelines for the notice of oil and gas drilling operations, compensation for the loss of agricultural production income caused by oil and gas production, and the operators' obligation to pay oil and gas royalties,” Goehring says. “The legislation provides the maximum amount of constitutionally permissible protection to surface owners from any undesirable effects of mineral development.”

Goehring will also discuss new legislation that provides for mediation to resolve disputes between surface owners and oil developers. The mediation will be conducted by the Mediation Service, a division of the North Dakota Department of Agriculture.

In addition to workshops, seminars and meetings, the conference will include tours of the Belle Plaine Potash Mine and the Cenovus Energy Field.

While in Regina, Goehring will meet with Saskatchewan Minister of Agriculture Bob Bjornerud.