Farmers Union Minute

Read the latest from North Dakota Farmers Union!

Jan. 9, 2021

NDFU will be hosting a virtual legislative session happy hour for members on Thursday, Jan. 14 at 7 p.m. To RSVP, please email Megan Edwardson at medwardson@ndfu.org or reach out to your member relations specialist. 

USDA Launches WHIP+ Quality Loss 
USDA finally launched the WHIP+ Quality Loss Adjustment Program (QLA) on Tuesday. The program provides assistance to producers who suffered crop quality losses in 2018 and 2019. Producers need to have verifiable documentation that shows at least a 5% loss through a quality discount to be eligible. Sign up began on Wednesday and runs through March 5.

Qualifying producers will receive a payment equal to 70% of the calculated quality loss. That loss will be determined by value discounts or grading factors for non-forage crops and nutrient or grading factors for forage crops. The formula will vary based on the type of crop and type of documentation submitted. For a full breakdown and more information on eligibility and payment calculations, click here

67th Legislative Assembly Convenes
On Tuesday, the 67th Legislative Assembly convened. Among the key issues expected to be tackled this session are the COVID-19 response, infrastructure bonding and balancing the state’s budget. Due to the pandemic, all committee hearings will be livestreamed and offer the opportunity to provide virtual testimony.

In a letter to legislators, NDFU President Mark Watne highlighted policy priorities approved by NDFU members during the organization’s annual meeting in December. Those priorities include: 

  • Utilizing Legacy Fund earnings to benefit the future of North Dakota and its residents with an added focus on efforts to expand livestock processing in the state. 
  • Protecting private property rights. 
  • Increasing access to competitively priced, high-speed broadband in rural areas. 
  • Investing in natural gas pipeline infrastructure and promoting developments of markets for natural gas. 

Burgum Gives State of the State Address
In his State of the State address on Tuesday, Gov. Doug Burgum highlighted his priorities ahead of the 67thLegislative Assembly. Burgum focused on the economy, COVID-19 response and innovation in technology and education. He also touted his $1.25 billion infrastructure bonding proposal.

Burgum made a few mentions of agriculture, reflecting on the difficult conditions that delayed 2020 spring planting and vowing to closely monitor weather conditions to ensure farmers and ranchers have the support they need. Burgum also mentioned his proposed $14 million investment in the Agricultural Products Development Center at NDSU. Burgum briefly touched on opportunities for unmanned aerial systems and Grand Farm to support the future of our state’s agriculture economy.

Legislation We Are Tracking
In each edition of the Farmers Union Minute, we will provide updates on what NDFU is tracking and advocating. Here’s a quick overview of what has been keeping us busy: 

  • A coalition of Republican legislators introduced a $1.1 billion bonding proposal aimed at funding infrastructure projects in the state. Gov. Burgum released his bonding proposal back in December. Democrats plan to unveil their own $2 billion proposal sometime in the near future. NDFU continues to support bonding for infrastructure projects.  
  • NDFU testified in support of the appropriation for Career and Technical Education, which maintains funding for the Adult Farm Management (AFM) program. The AFM programhelps farmers and ranchers maximize profitability on their operations. 
  • The debate on how to use Legacy Fund Earnings will be a key focus for NDFU this session. House Bill No. 1037 would create a new Legacy Earnings Fund and cap the amount available for appropriation at 6% of the five-year average value of the Legacy Fund Principal. 
  • The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee considered SB 2065, which would allow for the underground storage of oil and natural gas. The legislation requires the consent and compensation of the surface owners and safeguards against negative impacts to mineral owners. NDFU supports landowners’ rights to compensation for use of pore space.
  • The Senate passed four bills including updates to meat inspection, dairy and wool dealer regulations and a Bank of ND loan program for biofuel producers and value-added agriculture.

Runoff Determines Senate Majority
Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock narrowly emerged as the winners in the tightly contested Georgia runoff elections against incumbents Sen. David Perdue and Sen. Kelly Loeffler. The runoff results leave the Senate evenly split with 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans. Under the constitution, the vice president serves as President of the Senate, giving Democrats the majority. 

The runoff results also have major implications for agriculture. Sen. Debbie Stabenow will chair the Senate Agriculture Committee and Sen. John Hoeven will move to ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committee. Loeffler was a Senate Agriculture Committee member.

Ask NDFU

Have a question, comment, or concern? Focused on a policy issue we didn’t discuss here? Send Matt Perdue an email at mperdue@ndfu.org, and we will try to include it in the next edition.