It had been since December of 2019 and in a different world when this Interim Legislative committee last met. Dealing with at least a few areas of interest to producers, here is the nitty gritty:
SBARE Chair Mark Birdsall and NDSU Extension head Dr. Greg Lardy gave an update in which it was expressed that priority number one for the upcoming session is to hold onto the current budget. Almost any cut means reducing programs and people.
Karl Rockeman, Director, Division of Water Quality, Department of Environmental Quality, gave a report on animal feeding operations. He stated that the number of applications were mostly to upgrade existing institutions with applications for three new facilities. He also said that number was about average.
North Dakota Department of Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring testified on the effort to operate the Grain Licensing Division. He spoke about private insurance products for Ag commodity producers as they take a look on how to cover operators in the world of handling grain (warehouses/elevators, brokers, roving grain buyers, farmers and all involved) when it comes to insolvencies and bad actors. Stu Letcher of the North Dakota Grain Dealers Association (and Mayor of Hatton!) also testified on the bill draft in this regard and it appears that the industry and regulators are getting closer to language and policy that can be agreed upon. Committee Chair Dennis Johnson, Representative from the Devil’s Lake area and a longtime farmer and legislator, asked that Stu and the Ag Department continue to work together to solve differences. The main question seems to me centered around bonding levels (that is why the Commissioner had talked about private insurance possibilities) or perhaps a new indemnity fund using minuscule percentages to cover insolvencies. The level or maximum of a fund if that option is chosen will be discussed as well as cutting shorter the number of days (now often 45) a farmer has to make up his mind on selling his crop once deposited in the elevator.
The other issue discussed which received attention last session was when bankers wanted to know if a producer was lent some money by another entity after the bank had lent to them. They proposed that a tool in the Secretary of State’s office called the Central Indexing system might be utilized and testimony by Steve Solwei from that office said they could arrange it using existing funds. Stu Letcher of the NDGDA testified that their industry would be in favor.
Finally, the Road Train Pilot Program Study will end up with a resolution to the USA Congress to allow road trains. Axle configurations and fewer loads and drivers needed are some attractions should this someday take shape. Senator Larry Luick is driven to help this along. The committee will meet sometime this fall to wrap it up before session starts in January.