BISMARCK —  January 3 marked the first day of the North Dakota Legislative Session.  Gov. Doug Burgum gave his State of the State speech.  In mentioning agriculture, the state’s largest economic driver, he said, “Our farmers and ranchers can compete with anyone, anywhere — if given a level playing field. For consistently providing this nation and the world with a low-cost, high-quality food supply — they deserve our deepest gratitude.”

Corporate Farming Is Back

 A corporate farm bill has been introduced by Rep. Aaron McWilliams of Hillsboro. HB 1388 expands who can be a member of a family farm corporation by adding “second cousin” to the eligible family member requirements. Without a definition of what a second cousin is, adding additional exemptions only serves to weaken the law and help very few folks.

Our current law has withstood many legal challenges (including the 2018 challenge) and 75 percent of North Dakotans believe the law should stand as it’s currently written.

NDFU is opposed to this change.  The organization will continue to challenge any change to the corporate farming law, as it is important to preserve this law’s core values in order to see that family farms continue to be the backbone of North Dakota.

NDSU Comes to Town

North Dakota State University Research and Extension presented its case in front of the House Appropriations Education and Environment subcommittee this week.  In a room packed with the agricultural community, NDSU President Dean Bresciani and program leaders addressed legislators on the merits of state-funded research and outreach to urban and rural communities.  In its written testimony, NDFU supported the State Board of Agricultural Research and Extension (SBARE) priority-making process and its budget priorities for this session.

Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute (UGPTI) asked for its base level to be restored.  As a part of the governor’s recommendations, the Institute had been asked to identify a 5 percent reduction. The State Board of Higher Education (SBHE) and the UGPTI Advisory Council both asked for the restoration of those cuts.

NDFU cited the need to update UGPTI’s Biennial Condition/Needs Report.  “North Dakota has many roads and bridges that need to be monitored for improvement and keeping track of the cumulative figure helps both local and state leaders attach a price tag to projects.”

Ag Department Cuts

North Dakota State University is not the only state entity that has been recommended for cuts by Gov. Burgum.  According to his recommendations, the ag department’s budget loses two employees along with decreases in a number of programs.  However, it does hold the omsbudsman program harmless.

There are two bills involving moving programs to the agriculture department from the new Department of Environmental Quality and from the Public Service Commission.  HB 1467 moves the authority over grain, grain buyers, warehousing, deposits, and warehousemen from the Public Service Commission to the agriculture commissioner.  HB 1403 moves animal feeding operations and regulation of odors from agricultural operations and animal feeding operations from the Department of Environmental Quality to the Department of Agriculture.

Farm Home Exemption

As of print time, a bill to repeal the farm home exemption had not been introduced.  NDFU fully expects the bill to be introduced ahead of the legislature’s deadline for bills to be introduced.

Bill Watch

HB 1019 is the Career and Technical Education budget, which houses the Adult Farm Management budget. Adult Farm Management is a program that funds instructors throughout the state of North Dakota. The program assists clients in meeting their business and personal goals through the use of quality records and sound business decisions. The governor’s budget recommendations decrease this department’s appropriation dramatically.  NDFU testified in favor of the bill, asking for the committee to restore their original baseline over Gov. Burgum’s cuts.

SB 2033 would allow Legislative Council to provide drafting services to an initiated measure sponsoring committee to ensure it conforms to Legislative Council’s form and style drafting guidelines. The Legislative Council would not be allowed to alter the sponsoring committee’s intent in the proposed initiated measure.  NDFU supported the bill and was a part of the initiated measure commission that recommended the bill.

SCR 4001 revises the North Dakota Constitution to require initiated constitutional measures approved by voters also be approved by the two subsequent legislative assemblies before becoming effective.  NDFU opposes this bill.

SB 2026 appropriates a minimum of $1,050,000 out of the general fund to the Department of Human Services to establish and administer a voucher system for mental health. The voucher system would address underserved areas and gaps in the state’s mental health system by allowing payment assistance to private mental health service providers. 

Contact your Legislators

There are likely to be a significant amount of bills that affect agriculture during this session. Your legislators need to hear from you! The best way to get in touch with legislators is by going to legis.nd.gov.