Murphy’s Law 2021 #49 – Ag and Natural Resources Meet

October 8, 2021

The regular session ended half a year ago and this Interim Committee just met for the first time. They are tasked with a couple of studies and to receive the usual reports.

One of the studies is of the North Dakota Beef Commission, including its operations and the selection of its commission members. There was a kerfuffle during the last session about this but the bill that would have effected some changes failed so this study was approved. Some in the beef industry complain about the Governor appointing all the commission members with one organization testifying that they would rather have the Agriculture Commissioner appoint. Electing board members as do other commodity groups was also discussed. Essentially, Beef Commission representatives say they are open to discussing this and other matters (such as the use of checkoff revenue) while some cattlemen would like to shake things up for a more varied board. We will see if this committee decides to forward a bill for the session beginning January of 2023.

The other study is of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) Easements. This topic has a long history of legislative interest as perpetual easements continue to bother affected landowners. When Commissioner Doug Goehring testified, he stated that they are legal contracts after all and that it may take a class action lawsuit to clearly define wetlands. FWS representation testified and said they are more than half done with 15,500 high resolution maps sent out to affected landowners and expect to get them all done within a couple of years. The North Dakota Grain Growers gave passionate testimony about the damage that is done to farm operations and roads. This hot potato issue has been around since the North Dakota Legislature consented to this federal program decades ago while North Dakota Governors have approved/consented to the acquisition by FWS of over 1.2 million acres for waterfowl production areas from 1961 to 1977. There have been several lawsuits over this and it looks like there may be more. What can this Interim Committee do about it? Well, listen, at least as there are a lot of producers irked by the status quo.