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Montana Ag Network: May 8th Report – Shake-up in wheat industry, MT hemp deadline extended

Posted at 4:43 PM, May 08, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-08 18:43:44-04

A shake-up occurred in the wheat industry this week as the North Dakota Grain Growers Association (NDGGA) announced it is withdrawing from the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG).

NDGGA officials said they had seen a decline in support for issues specifically affecting North Dakota and reported they were not seeing an adequate return on their investment. Officials added they can better represent their interests on the national stage.

Hurdsfield, ND farmer Jeff Mertz is president of the NDGGA. He said the group has had issues with NAWG for many years. In 2017, NDGGA paid just half of their membership dues to NAWG.

“NAWG said we put our farmers first and we did because we were facing a drought and we’re facing lower acreage on wheat,” said Mertz. “So, we decided instead of having a budget deficit, we would go to half dues to NAWG and they accepted our proposal. Then 2018, we were facing a drought again, and then we were figuring to lose more acres, but the drought didn’t materialize.”

NDGGA said one policy area they felt NAWG did not represent them on goes back to the 2008 Farm Bill.

“We had a bunch of quality loss issues,” said Mertz. “All we needed was a letter from NAWG for our U.S. senator to push forward in the farm bill a quality loss provision in RMA for the crop insurance. We couldn’t even muster up enough support for that. Then they had crop issues down in Kansas, winter wheat producing states, with VOM about two or three years ago. Then the Pacific Northwest had problems with falling numbers. We were sort of the canary in the coal mine and we couldn’t get NAWG to move on that.”

In 2017, NDGGA hired their own lobbyists to represent them in Washington, D.C. They felt hiring their own lobbyist was the best option for representation.

NAWG said they are disappointed in the NDGGA’s decision to leave the national association.

“Despite tremendous effort and NAWG conducting hundreds of meetings with members of Congress and the Administration on behalf of all our states including North Dakota, NDGGA leadership has indicated they will leave NAWG,” said NAWG President Ben Scholz. “As the president of a trade association, it always disappoints me when one of our members isn’t pleased with productivity.”

In addressing NDGGA’s concern with the 2008 Farm Bill, NAWG CEO Chandler Goule said the current staff and leadership were not in place at that time. But, the NAWG did advocate for the issue successfully in the 2018 Farm Bill.

“When they [NDGGA] re-proposed this back to the team that we built here at NAWG in 2017, we did get the crop insurance quality adjustment in to the farm bill and it’s currently being implemented by RMA,” said Goule.

In addition, NAWG said they did everything possible to address North Dakota’s concerns from providing the group with private briefings to ramped up communications to even traveling to North Dakota with third-party facilitators to address issues. NAWG said they went above and beyond to meet the concerns of NDGGA.

“Here’s the couple things we’ve learned in this process,” said Goule. “One, the structure that we currently have at NAWG is the structure that works the best for our state members in both our opinion and their opinion. Also what meets our needs and representing them here in Washington, D.C.”

Goule added the second thing is new reports.

“Whether it’s on policy and communication, we added to our weekly reporting that’s come out of the meetings that our executive committee had with the North Dakota grain Growers. I think we’re going to see some very positive changes to come out of NAWG due to this and unfortunately the North Dakota Grain Growers decided to resign their membership before they could see the true benefits of the things they asked us to do,” he said.

NAWG said there is a standing invitation for NDGGA to rejoin the NAWG. NDGGA said they would consider rejoining if major change occurs.

“Here’s the deal: there’s value at NAWG, I’m not going to say that there isn’t,” said Jeff Mertz. “We’ll go it alone and see what happens. We’re not going to burn a bridge because you never know when you need to cross that again.”

Montana Grain Growers Association (MGGA) reacted to the news by showing their support for NAWG.

“This is very disappointing,” stated MGGA officials. “MGGA believes strongly in the value of our membership in NAWG – their advocacy, influence on key policy issues, and presence in D.C. is extremely beneficial to Montana grain producers.”

In other news, the Montana Department of Agriculture has extended the 2019 hemp license application deadline to Wednesday, May 15, 2019.

An industrial hemp license issued by the state provides authorization for the production of industrial hemp at a particular growing area by a particular individual or entity.

Licenses expire on the last day of April following the year the license is issued. Click here for more information.

-Reported by Lane Nordlund/MTN News