Today the joint Ag committees (both House and Senate) meet and listen all morning to ND Agricultural Experiment Station and NDSU Extension Service priorities. This happens every session and I was involved as a senator on Ag committee back in 2011 so I know what the freshmen legislators are going through as program after program is explained.
As producers, you might be interested to know that as I look at the hearing table right now, 12 of the 17 legislators are new to the committee. The program leaders from Extension are doing their best to sell their programs as did the State Board of Agricultural Research and Education (SBARE) chair before them this morning. You might like to know that besides being under the gun of perhaps 10 to 15% budget reductions, Extension is under pressure from both old and new legislators who are looking to pare these government services.
I was sitting in the Senate Ag Committee two weeks ago while they were discussing Extension agents and programs. Much of the discussion was about how Extension might be dabbling too much in family matters, duplicating education, meddling in selling insurance and financial planning. This was the attitude of some in that committee and is representative of some of the feelings that appear to be out there. In fact, the last five questions happening right now in front of me have been challenging Extension to defend their practices and stating that private entities could provide many of the services.
A couple of hearings that I did not get to but wanted to today that would affect producers included one which would have gravel haulers cover their loads (they do in some states). Another and perhaps more germane had to do with using revolving loan funds for infrastructure. This is because the Legislature has been loath to borrow lately (during the boom because we had $ with less need to borrow) and now being more inclined to cut services due to dollar constraints. If, for instance, roads and bridges projects could be funded to a greater degree by borrowing in such a manner, the producer would benefit. Legislators are hired to decide these matters.