NORTH DAKOTA (KXNET) — North Dakota Farm Bureau and North Dakota Farmers Union announced their joint opposition to an initiated measure that will appear on the November election ballot, limiting the time in office a governor or state legislator can serve.

If passed, the constitutional amendment would limit the governor to two four-year terms in office and state legislators to eight years in the House and eight years in the Senate. Currently, these elected leaders serve four-year terms with no restrictions on the length of service.

KX News’ Josh Meny sat down with NDFB Public Policy Liason Emmery Mehlhoff to learn why the farm groups are opposed to term limits, and why they say it would be a detriment to the state and rural ag communities.

So when you’re talking about measure one, these term limits would limit the legislature’s power and vest more power to bureaucratic agencies. What does that look like?

“Well, Josh, when you have term limits on your legislatures, what you’re looking at, and what this measure particularly does, is it turns the legislators off, they can only serve eight years. And so they’ve turned me off every eight years, and getting somebody else new. Well, what we see is the agencies, they don’t have term limits, they keep their employees, their career, that’s what they’re doing. And so what you’re doing when you’re turning off your legislators, is you’re shifting all of that knowledge and experience and wisdom to the agencies or to the executive branch, and away from the legislators and therefore away from the people. Because they become the experts on the issue. It takes when you see a freshman legislator, come on, it takes some time, and some information to get caught up on everything Ag related, education related healthcare related, all of that stuff. And so when you’re constantly turning off those guys, along goes their experience with them. But we don’t see that same turnover in the agencies,” explained North Dakota Farm Bureau Public Policy Liason Emmery Mehlhoff.

Now when we talk about term limits. Why does North Dakota Farm Bureau think it will be detrimental to the ag community?

“So surfacing, finding, and electing people, individuals who are in production agriculture, can be challenging finding somebody who’s willing to leave the tractor, leave the farm, leave the ranch, and go off and represent their community. It can be challenging because it’s a time commitment. Even though in North Dakota, we have a citizen legislature, you still have to go up to Bismarck for 80 days, every two years. And that’s a huge time commitment. And it takes a lot from those operations, where sometimes it’s [farm opperation] a one-man show, it’s a two-man show, it’s a family show. And so finding those people who are willing to sacrifice that time can be challenging. And once you find that person who is in put up production agriculture, or who knows production, agriculture, keeping them there can be a challenge. And keeping them wanting to be involved can be a challenge. And so we at the North Dakota Farm Bureau truly believe that the citizens are our farmers, our rural communities out there, once they find the legislator that they like they should be able to keep them,” said Mehlhoff.

Measure one lumps together the legislature with the Office of the Governor, do you think there should be a separate conversation about term limits for the Governor?

“Yes, I do. We’re looking at two different branches of government, the executive, the legislative, the executive serves. He’s kind of like the president of North Dakota, just like the presidents. The President is the President of the US the governors like the president of North Dakota. And so we’re when we talk about term limits, I believe that the conversation should be separate. When we talked about the legislature, we’re talking about the representatives of the people, the representatives of counties, District 24, for example, where I’m from representative of Barnes and Ransom County,” explained Mehlhoff.

So the legislature is really more representative on the local community level than the governor?

“Yes, that’s true. So the legislator would serve as a representative of a couple of counties, a couple of communities, towns, and those are really going to differ across the state. You’re going to have your rural ones, you’re going to have your urban ones and in between, whereas the governor, the executive serves as a representation for the entire state, like the President does of the United States,” explained Mehlhoff.