This week the Interim Agriculture & Transportation Committee met for the first time. They took up transportation issues first and discussed electronic vehicles and charging stations (minimal in North Dakota on both counts), then the Road Train study. Senator Larry Luick has been the driver on road trains as he knows that we have a 900,000 CDL shortage in the USA and our own state is struggling to find good truck drivers. There are various technologies which can help platoon trailers to minimize turning radius and move together, but the amount of infrastructure needed for loading and unloading will be a sticking point. This has huge potential for efficiencies, but is most likely not soon to come to ND as the process includes time to evaluate, plan and potentially fund and build.
Something that is moving much faster is the North Dakota Department of Agriculture on their new responsibility to oversee Grain Licensing which was formerly in the Public Service Commission portfolio. The Commissioner of Agriculture presented what they have done since acquiring this program on July 1st: Software Updates for reviewing bond and insurance coverage, developed new platforms and databases, an Electronic Data Interchange which cuts audit time by 5 hours, hired staff and completed inspector training. In addition to other changes, they are obtaining Roving Report data at inspection and requiring unlicensed brokers and buyers to be licensed in ND, reviewing background and credit reports on new license candidates as well as working on a process for monitoring newly licensed buyers and brokers. They have held industry meetings to discuss and identify needed changes to simplify and clarify the law. They are also discussing what might be preferable bonding rates (ND already requires the highest in the country as I understand it). There is much more in the details and most if not all topics discussed were positively received by the committee which has a majority of farmers on it (13 of 17 by my count), providing some assurance of practicality when it comes to deciding what should be in any new bill proposed to aid in this effort. I should mention that using something called the Central Indexing system maintained by the Secretary of State was being discussed to provide notification to a secured lender when a priority lien is filed on the collateral of a secured lender. In other words, a banker who has lent to a producer would like to know if a supplier (say, seed, chemical, etc.,) gives a producer money to get the crop in the ground. Right now there is no law that says the original lender should be notified. This was discussed last session and led to this study. The bankers testified that such transparency allows protection to be afforded to all parties and their communities as a whole.