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Archives - State Agencies - Agriculture

[Constitution, Article V, Section 12; NDCC Chapter 4-01]

The Territorial Department of Agriculture was established in 1885 (T. L. 1885, Ch. 3) to promote "agriculture and horticulture and manufactured and domestic arts." Legislation also provided for a Territorial Board of Agriculture that was to govern the affairs of the Territorial Department of Agriculture and regulate all fairs, farmers’ institutes, and stock shows in the Territory. In 1887, the Territorial Legislature established two agricultural districts within the Territory. Each district was controlled by a district board of agriculture consisting of one person from each of the legislative districts within the agricultural district (T. L. 1887, Ch. 3). The members of the district boards of agriculture were appointed by the Governor. The southern Dakota district (district one) met in Huron and the northern Dakota district (district two) met in Fargo. The district board had sole control of the affairs of the Territorial Department of Agriculture and could make by-laws, rules, and regulations in relation to the Department.  

The North Dakota Constitution established the office of Commissioner of Agriculture and Labor in 1889.  In addition to monitoring agricultural industry in the state the Commissioner had responsibility for monitoring the labor situation, including gathering statistical information on labor organizations and mediating labor disputes resulting from strikes or lockouts. The Commissioner of Agriculture and Labor wore many hats.  The Commissioner was also responsible for promoting immigration to the state, was the ex-officio state dairy commissioner, and the state statistician. In 1890 the State Board of Agriculture (S. L. 1890, Ch. 24) was created to promote “stock breeding, agriculture, and domestic arts”. The State Board of Agriculture consisted of one person from each of the judicial districts in the state. The Board was appointed by the Governor for a two-year term and in 1897 was charged with supervision of the Department of Agriculture and Labor and the promotion of “agriculture, stock breeding, horticulture, manufacturing, mining, and domestic arts”. The 1897 law also changed the composition of the board to a Board of Trustees consisting of three gubernatorial appointees serving two-year terms (S. L. 1897, Ch.134). The District Board of Agriculture was to hold district fairs and fat stock shows. It was given the power to contract and be contracted with, hold or sell property, sue and be sued in courts or other sites as determined by the Board.   
In 1935 a Labor Division was created (S. L. 1935, Ch. 161) within the Department of Agriculture and Labor to administer state labor laws. A Deputy Agriculture Commissioner was designated to head the division and in that same year the minimum wage department was transferred from the Workmen's Compensation Bureau to the labor division. Legislation in 1959 began the process of separating the Department of Agriculture and Labor into two separate departments by authorizing an election to change the North Dakota State Constitution (S. L 1959, Ch.437). In the June 1960 primary election the Department of Agriculture and Labor was divided by a constitutional amendment thus adding a new Department of Labor and a Commissioner of Labor. The departments were officially separated in 1965 (S. L. 1965, Ch. 236) and in 1967 the former Commissioner of Agriculture and Labor became the Commissioner of Agriculture.  Another amendment to the constitution in 1964 expanded the term of Commissioner of Agriculture from two to four years.
The Department of Agriculture has undergone several reorganizations since statehood.  Agriculture has always been and continues to be key to the state economy situating the Commissioner in a high profile office.  Prescribed by law the Commissioner has responsibility for determining and coordinating department operations by overseeing and coordinating divisions, programs, and a variety of other areas concerning agricultural science in the state. Over the years the names and the number of divisions within the Department have changed but the programs regulated by the Department remain inclusive of all phases of the agricultural industry. The Department and Commissioner serve as advocates for the needs of farmers and ranchers. The Agriculture Commissioner represents the agricultural community in formulating public policy to regulate certain elements of the agriculture industry and disseminate information concerning agriculture. The Commissioner serves on numerous boards, councils, and commissions and along with the Governor and Attorney General, the Commissioner serves on Industrial Development Commission. The Commissioner is elected to serve a four-year term and must be a qualified elector of the state and at least twenty-five years of age. The Department of Agriculture is headquartered at the State Capital in Bismarck.

1885       The Territorial Department of Agriculture and the Territorial Board of Agriculture were created (T. L. 1885, Ch.3).

1887       Two agricultural district boards replaced the Territorial Board of Agriculture and were established to regulate agriculture, horticulture, manufacturing, and domestic arts (T. L. 1887, Ch. 3). The term fair was defined as a “bona fide” exhibition of the four principal classes of livestock together with agricultural and horticultural products and mechanical arts.

1889       The Territorial Department of Agriculture divided into two districts and the Governor made appointments except for the agricultural societies in the counties who selected delegates and alternates. Members had sole control over the affairs of all district fairs, farmers’ institutes, and fat stock shows (S. L. 1889, Ch. 7).  The North Dakota State Constitution created the Department of Agriculture and Labor and a Commissioner of Agriculture and Labor.

1890       The Legislative Assembly defined the duties of the Commissioner of Agriculture and Labor to include “considering ways to encourage, promote, and develop means to advance the immigration interests of the state” and to serve as the state statistician and the ex-officio dairy commissioner (S. L. 1890, Ch. 46). The Secretary of State was to find office space for the Commissioner of Agriculture.

1893       Legislation amended the Board of Agriculture to become the “State” Board of Agriculture (S. L. 1893, Ch. 23).

1897       The State Board of Agriculture changed to the Board of Trustees consisting of three gubernatorial appointees who served two-year terms.

1899       Duties of the Commissioner as state statistician were defined. The Commissioner was required to obtain information from county assessors and other county officers and take charge of exhibits and all activities associated with a fair or an exhibition where state products were exhibited (S. L. 1899, Ch. 44). The Commissioner of Agriculture and Labor could hire a clerk and stenographer (S. L. 1899, Ch. 45). 

1933       The Commissioner of Agriculture and Labor was one of the three members who served on the Industrial Commission (S. L. 1933, Ch. 191).  The Commissioner of Immigration was abolished and duties were transferred to the Commissioner of Agriculture and Labor (S. L. 1933, Ch. 190).
1935       A division of labor was created within the Department of Agriculture and Labor.  A deputy was appointed as head of the division. The minimum wage department was transferred from Workmen’s Compensation Bureau to the Department of Agriculture and Labor (S. L. 1935, Ch. 161).

1941       A marketing bureau was established within the Department of Agriculture and Labor for the purpose of gathering and disseminating statistical information about agricultural marketing problems facing citizens of the state. The bureau was to engage in marketing services of agricultural products (S. L. 1941, Ch. 10).

1959       The Legislature authorized the separation of the Department of Agriculture and Labor and allowed for a June primary election to amend the constitution and to create two agencies (S. L. 1959, Ch. 437).

1960       The people passed an amendment to the constitution separating the Departments of Agriculture and Labor.

1964       Initiated measure  (No. 5) to amend the North Dakota Constitution changed the term of office for the Commissioner of Agriculture to four years beginning in 1965 (S. L. 1965, Ch. 475).

1965       The North Dakota Department of Labor and a Commissioner of Labor were officially created (S. L. 1965, Ch. 236). Legislation required that the Commissioner of Labor be elected on a no-party ballot.

1967       The Commissioner of Agriculture and Labor was renamed the Commissioner of Agriculture.

1971       The Commissioner of Agriculture no longer served as the state statistician (S. L. 1971, Ch. 122).

1973       A new section of the Century Code required the Commissioner of Agriculture to cooperate with the US Department of the Interior Bureau on sports fisheries, wildlife, and other areas relating to game and fish (S. L. 1973, Ch. 202).

1981       The North Dakota Beef Promotion Act was amended (S. L. 1981, Ch. 99).  

1987       The Commissioner of Agriculture was required to cooperate with federal agencies on the issue of destruction of predatory animals (S. L. 1987, Ch. 79). The Century Code was amended and provided penalties relating to beef promotion assessments (S. L. 1987, Ch. 91).

1989       Sarah M. Vogel was the first woman elected to serve as Commissioner of Agriculture. She served until 1997.

1993       The Pride of Dakota program (part of the newly established state marketing bureau) gathered and disseminated statistical information on statewide agricultural marketing problems and engaged in marketing services of agricultural projects. The money generated from this activity was deposited in the general fund (S. L. 1993, Ch. 5).
1995       New sections were added to the Century Code relating to the establishment of the technology transfer economic development fund.  New language was added to sections on the Agricultural Marketing Bureau, the duties of the Credit Review Board, the income level requirement of the North Dakota Future Fund, and involvement with the organization and management of the Technology Economic Developing Fund Transfer (S.L. 1995, Ch. 108).

1997       Voters changed the name Commissioner of Agriculture to Agriculture Commissioner in a special election held in 1996.

2005       Legislation related to the disposition of furs and skins taken by the US Department of Agriculture Wildlife service for funding program activities that benefited the state livestock producers (S. L. 2005, Ch. 56).  A new section of the Century Code was added to establish a certified beef program and a livestock loan guarantee program (S. L. 2005, Ch. 57).

2009       Legislation requested the Agriculture Commissioner to cooperate with government agencies in controlling predatory animals, destructive birds, and field rodents (S. L. 2009, Ch. 67). Legislation also provided for the creation of a grape and wine committee to advise the Commissioner on efforts that provided for the education and marketing promotion of a grape and wine industry in the state (S. L. 2009, Ch. 69). Commissioner duties were listed concerning the eradication of noxious weeds by state and federal agencies (S. L. 2009, Ch. 71). New sections added the Century Code related to the Commissioner’s duties in promoting sustainably grown agriculture commodities and creating an advisory committee on sustainable agriculture (S. L. 2009, Ch. 68). Extensive legislation concerned the Agriculture Commodity boards, councils, and commissions including the Commissioner’s responsibilities (S. L. 2009, Ch. 80). Legislation required the Agriculture Commissioner to call for an annual meeting of the commodity groups and to serve as a non-voting member (S. L. 2009, Ch. 70).

2013       The Department was to create and maintain an electronic database for wetlands (S. L. 2013, Ch. 65). A Grape and Wine Advisory Committee appointed by the Commissioner was created (S. L. 2013, Ch. 66).  Other changes were to dairy product regulations, forage certification, and identifying plant pests and the finding ways to control pests (S. L. 2013, Ch. 68, Ch. 69, and Ch. 70). The Commissioner was required to monitor the manufacturing, licensing, and distributing of a commercial feed program (S. L. 2013, Ch. 186).  New amendments related to the imposition of civil penalties and laws concerning fertilizers, fertilizer materials, micronutrients, specialty fertilizers, soil amendments, and plants (S. L. 2013, Ch. 187).


30003 Brands Division. Fee Collection Register.
30004 Brands Division. Fee Collection Register.
30005 Brands Division. Brand Design Index.
30006 Brands Division. Estray Notice Scrapbook.
30007 Grain Storage Commissioner. Financial Account.
30008 Grain Storage Commissioner. Seed Grain Shipment Register.
30639 Marketing Division. Wheat Quality Survey Files.
30640 Marketing Division. Marketing Service Program Files.
30641 Livestock Division. Livestock Court Case Files.
30642 Apiary Division. Apiary Maps.
30643 Entomology Division. Grasshopper Infestation Survey Maps.
30644 Administration. General Ledger
30645 Administration. Audit Report.
30646 Marketing Division. Mill and Elevator Association Financial Statements.
30652 Entomology Division. Barberry Eradication Campaign Material.
30702 Poultry Division. North Dakota Turkey Federation Records.
30703 Poultry Division. North Dakota Poultry Improvement Board Records.
30781 Administration. Incoming Letters, 1890.
30782 Administration. Agricultural Statistics, 1898-1899.
31210 Administration. Centennial Farm Program Records.
31321 Entomology Division. Insect Survey Reports.
31322 Entomology Division. Central Plant Board Minutes.
31402 Administration. Administrative Files.
31493 Public Information. News Releases.           
31580 Public Information and Marketing Division. ND Products Council File.
31584 Entomology Division. Interstate Pest Control Compact Annual Report.
31585 Public Information and Marketing Division. Speech File.
31703 Pesticide Division. Weed Control Board Records.
31704 Marketing Division. Mid-American International Agri-Trade Council
31934 Ag Mediation.  Service Manual.
32002 Pesticide Division. Minutes.


Gray, David P. Guide to North Dakota State Archives, 1983.
Laws of Dakota Territory.
North Dakota Century Code .
North Dakota Secretary of State Blue Book.
North Dakota State Legislature Session Laws.
North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Website.

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