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MILL AND ELEVATOR ASSOCIATION
[Authorized: Constitution, Article X, Section 20; NDCC Chapter 54-18]

The movement for creation of a publicly-owned mill and elevator system in North Dakota had its roots in populism, and was later championed by progressives and the Nonpartisan League. Actual creation of the North Dakota Mill and Elevator Association was the result of a long battle waged by farmers and progressives in an attempt to break the grain trade monopoly and have some control over pricing and grading of grain.

The Farmers Alliance called upon the Territorial Legislature to build a publicly owned grain terminal in 1887. In 1893, the State Legislature created a Board of Grain and Warehouse Commissioners, consisting of the Lieutenant Governor, chairman of the Board of Railroad Commissioners, and the commissioner of Agriculture and Labor, to select and purchase a site for a state elevator at Duluth, Minnesota, or Superior, Wisconsin (S. L. 1893, Ch. 61). The attempt to construct an out-of-state elevator failed in-part because the law required the elevator to accept only North Dakota wheat and the host state to cede jurisdiction of the elevator property to the state of North Dakota.

A Board of Grain Commissioners was authorized in 1907 (S. L. 1907, Ch. 129) in response to a North Dakota Bankers Association report on the abuses in grain grading in terminal cities in Wisconsin and Minnesota. The Board of Grain commissioners consisted of three members appointed by the Governor and were required to travel to the terminal cities in Wisconsin and Minnesota and investigate the feasibility of buying, building, or leasing a terminal elevator for use by North Dakotans. This attempt to secure an out-of-state elevator also failed.

North Dakotans approved constitutional amendments in 1912 and 1914 authorizing state ownership and construction of elevators in North Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. In 1913 and 1915, legislation allowed creation of a state terminal elevator fund to be used for erection of an elevator. The 1913 law required the Board of Control to investigate the costs of construction, leasing, and operation of a state terminal elevator in Wisconsin or Minnesota. The 1915 state terminal elevator fund law required the Board of Railroad Commissioners to investigate the location and cost of construction of a state-owned elevator and report their findings to the State Legislature. This law (S. L. 1915, Ch. 258) was referred and approved by voters on November 7, 1916.

In the 1915 Legislative Session another bill authorizing construction of a state terminal elevator was defeated. The North Dakota Union of the American Society of Equity demonstrated for passage of the bill and was enraged by its defeat. The resulting frustration and anger contributed to the organization of the Farmer's Non-partisan Political League, soon renamed the Nonpartisan League (NPL), and the political rise of Arthur C. Townley. Taking on the state-owned elevator and other farm issues, Townley and others quickly organized the Nonpartisan league and began recruitment in 1915. Membership and political power of the League was great enough in 1916 to put League candidate Lynn J. Frazier in the Governor's chair and to capture control of the House of Representatives. A bill creating a state mill was, however, vetoed by Governor Frazier in 1917.

In the 1918 elections the Nonpartisan League captured a majority in both houses of the State Legislature and retained Frazier for another term, thus gaining control of the state government. With approval of several key constitutional amendments by voters, the Nonpartisan League was ready to reform state government and create a state mill and elevator system.

The North Dakota Mill and Elevator Association was established in 1919 and was a key element in the Nonpartisan League program of state-owned industries (S. L. 1919, Ch. 152). Legislation creating the North Dakota Mill and Elevator Association was far reaching, authorizing construction of "a system of warehouses, elevators, flour mills, and factories" in the state. The Industrial Commission, consisting of the Governor, Attorney General, and the Commissioner of Agriculture and Labor, was created in the 1919 session, governed the Mill and Elevator association, and made all decisions concerning the Mill's location, policies, and regulations. All property and equipment acquired by the North Dakota Mill and Elevator Association was to be held in the name of the state of North Dakota.
                                                               
The North Dakota Mill and Elevator Association bought a small flour mill in Drake, North Dakota, in 1919. The flour mill was unprofitable and was closed in 1924 and sold in 1931. The Industrial Commission also selected Grand Forks as the site of a State Mill and Elevator in 1919. Construction stalled late in 1920 due to lack of funds. Disappointment over progress on mill construction and opposition to the Nonpartisan League, the League program, and League state officials resulted in a successful recall election in 1921, removing Governor Lynn Frazier, Attorney General William Lemke, and Commissioner of Agriculture John Hagen. However, League industries, including the Bank of North Dakota, the North Dakota Mill and Elevator Association, and the State Hail Insurance System survived the decline of the Nonpartisan league.

Construction of the State Mill and Elevator commenced again in 1922, and was opened by the end of the year. Due to mismanagement and political machinations, the North Dakota Mill and Elevator Association lost money through the 1920s and the early 1930s. However, by the late 1930s the State Mill and Elevator was operating in the black. Despite eventual profitability, the Nonpartisan League vision of a statewide "system of warehouses, elevators, flour mills, and factories" was not realized.

Control over the North Dakota Mill and Elevator Association was contested during the 1920s and 1930s. After the decline of the Nonpartisan League, control over the State Mill and Elevator passed from the Industrial Commission to a Board of Managers in 1923; to the Governor in 1925; to the North Dakota Mill and Elevator Commission in 1931; and back to the Industrial Commission in 1933. Since 1933, the Industrial Commission has been in control of the North Dakota Mill and Elevator Association.

Opposition has shadowed the North Dakota Mill and Elevator Association throughout its history. Bills abolishing the North Dakota Mill and Elevator Association have been introduced in the State Legislature as recently as 1967. Perhaps the greatest threat to the existence of the State Mill and Elevator in the post-Nonpartisan League years has been fires at the Mill. Disastrous fires in 1969 and 1970 caused the State Mill and Elevator to cease operations for 18 months. After rebuilding, the North Dakota Mill and Elevator Association resumed operations.

Over the years, one of the best known products of the North Dakota Mill and Elevator Association has been “Dakota Maid” brand flour. From 1935-1961, all government letterheads and printed forms were required to bear the slogan “Buy ‘Dakota Maid’ Flour” to promote consumption of North Dakota Mill and Elevator Association products. After 1961, government letterheads and forms were required to bear the slogan “Buy North Dakota Products” until the repeal of the law in 1973. 

CHRONOLOGY
1887  The Farmers Alliance called upon the territorial legislature to build a publicly owned grain terminal.

1893  Creation of the Board of Grain and Warehouse Commissioners by the State Legislature consisted of the Lieutenant Governor, Chairman of the Board of Railroad Commissioners, and the Commissioner of Agriculture and Labor (S. L. 1893, Ch. 61).

1907  Creation of the Board of Grain Commissioners was authorized in response to a North Dakota Bankers Association report (S. L. 1907, Ch. 129).

1913  Creation of the State Terminal Elevator Fund required the Board of Control to investigate the costs of construction, leasing, and operation of a state terminal elevator in Wisconsin or Minnesota.

1915  The State Terminal Elevator Fund law required the Board of Railroad Commissioners to investigate the location and cost of construction of a state-owned elevator and report their findings to the State Legislature (S. L. 1915, Ch. 258).

1916  North Dakota voters approved the referred the State Terminal Elevator Fund law on November 7, 1916. The NPL put League candidate Lynn J. Frazier in the Governor's chair and captured control of the House of Representatives.

1917  Governor Frazier vetoed the bill to create a state mill.

1918  The NPL captured a majority in both houses of the State Legislature. Governor Frazier was elected for another term. Several key constitutional amendments were approved by voters, and state government was reformed under the Nonpartisan League. A move to create a State Mill and Elevator system was in place.

1919  Creation of the North Dakota Mill and Elevator Association (S. L. 1919, Ch. 152). The Industrial Commission, consisting of the Governor, Attorney General, and the Commissioner of Agriculture and Labor, was created in the 1919 session to govern the Mill and Elevator Association. A small flour mill in Drake, North Dakota was purchased by the Association. It remained unprofitable and was closed in 1924 and sold in 1931. Also, the Industrial Commission selected Grand Forks as the site of a State Mill and Elevator.

1920  Construction stalled due to lack of funds and disappointment spread over the lack of progress on mill construction. Opposition to the Nonpartisan league, the League program, and League state officials arose.

1921       A successful recall election removed Governor Lynn Frazier, Attorney General William Lemke, and Commissioner of Agriculture and Labor John Hagen from office.

1922  Construction of the State Mill and Elevator commenced and it was opened by the end of the year, however, the North Dakota Mill and Elevator Association lost money through the 1920s and the early 1930s.

1923  Control over the State Mill and Elevator passed from the Industrial Commission to a Board of Managers.

1925  The control of the State Mill and Elevator passed from the Industrial Commission to the Governor. 

1931  The North Dakota Mill and Elevator Commission gained control of the State Mill and Elevator.

1933  Restoration of control of the North Dakota Mill and Elevator Association by the Industrial Commission.

1935  All state government letterhead and printed forms were required bear the slogan “Buy Dakota Maid Flour.”          

1961  Forms and letterhead changed to say “Buy North Dakota Products”.

1967  A bill to abolish the State Mill failed.

1969-1970  State Mill ceased operations for eighteen months due to disastrous fires.

1973  Forms and letterhead slogan repealed.                     

SERIES
30347  General Manager Files
30348  Assistant General Manager Files
30349  Production Manager’s Files
30350  Advertising Department Files
30352  Insurance Claim Files
30353  Quarterly Financial Statements
30526  Record of Feed Shipments
30533  Record of Stock Feed Transfer
30534  Cash Grain Record
30906  Audit Reports
31515  Mill Equipment Files

SOURCES
Gray, David P.  Guide to the North Dakota State Archives, 1985.
North Dakota Century Code.
North Dakota Secretary of State Blue Book.
North Dakota State Legislature Session Laws.

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