Beef Commission election bill goes to House floor
If enacted, House Bill 1436 will allow North Dakota cattle producers to elect the members of the North Dakota Beef Commission. Currently the law requires the governor to appoint the members.
While Representative Beltz, District 20, was a bill sponsor, he voted to send the bill to the House floor with a “Do not Pass” in a committee hearing on Feb. 3, 2023.
The committee voted 8-4 (with one absence) to support the “do not pass” recommendation.
Beltz, Christy, Finley-DeVille, Fisher, Headland, Schreiber-Beck, Tveit, voted in favor of the “do not pass, while Van Winkle, Henderson, Olson and Prichard voted against the “do not pass” recommendation.
The bill will go before the full House of Representatives for a floor discussion and vote probably next week.
The Independent Beef Association of North Dakota supports HB 1436. Their most recent president, Kerry Dockter, has said that the group has submitted names for seats multiple times, but has not succeeded in getting a member of theirs on the North Dakota Beef Commission.
Dockter said his group does not support the approximately $650,000 that the North Dakota Beef Commission pays to the NCBA and the Federation of State Beef Councils which is an entity within the NCBA, a lobbying organization they don’t agree with.
The new I-BAND president, Frank Tomac, was frustrated with the committee action. He said 1436 would put the Beef Commission selection process more in line with other checkoff boards. Several legislators commented that it would be “too difficult” or would be an invasion of privacy, to create a list of qualified producers for purposes of identifying who is eligible to serve on the board as well as run for seats.
He said the current system amounts to “taxation without representation” because many producers do not believe they are being represented and do not believe accountability exists since there is no election process.
One house member complained about the division that exists between I-BAND and the North Dakota Stockmen. Currently 8 of the 11 board members are NDSA members while none are I-BAND members.
Representative Tveit said it’s not “right” for the legislature to try to fix the chasm between the two groups, and urged disgruntled producers to work things out themselves.
“I don’t think it’s right for us to fix it. We need to let them come together. Have they tried?” he said, before saying he would vote “do not pass.”
Representative Headland said developing and updating a list of eligible producers is “asking for trouble.” And said he’s tired of arguments between the two producer groups. He said he’d like to see the producer groups fix the problems amongst themselves, and believes that the simple way for those whose voice isn’t being heard would be to join “the larger group.”
I-BAND Vice President August Heupel said there should be no concern about privacy when it comes to building a list of eligible producers, and he points out that the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association, who oversees the state brand inspection program, has posted on its website the state brand book which includes the name and address of every brand owner in the state. Heupel believes this would be a nearly complete list of all active producers and while some brand owners don’t sell cattle every year, a good share of them do, he said.
The North Dakota Stockmen testified during an earlier hearing that privacy of producers could be compromised in the process of creating a list of eligible producers. They believe that an election process rather than the current appointment process is “too expensive” and unneccesarily complicated.
NDSA’s Julie Ellingson told TSLN that the Stockmen support the current Beef Commission members, saying they represent diverse skillsets, experiences and operations.