Brand inspection fees may go up in ND |

Brand inspection fees may go up in ND

The North Dakota State Board of Animal Health will have public hearing at 9 a.m. (CST) Jan. 6 in the Brynhild Haugland Room at the State Capitol in Bismarck regarding several administrative rule changes pertaining to Board of Animal Health Administrative Code. Revisions relate to animal health matters, as well as a brand inspection fee change. The board is considering increasing the brand inspection fee from the current $1 per head to $1.50 per head. The board is also considering an increase in lifetime horse permits from $10 to $25, increasing registered feedlot permits and inspection fees from $20 to $25, and from 10 cents per head to 50 cents per head, at the request of the N.D. Stockmen’s Association, which manages the brand inspection, according to a press release from the NDSA.

In 2011 the program saw an increase from $.75 to $1, so this would amount to a 100 percent increase in five years. This is on top of a $1 per-head refundable state checkoff that was implemented August 1, 2015.

The stockmen’s association does not profit from the brand inspection program, according to Stan Misek, North Dakota chief brand inspector. “All of the income goes through the state department. If there is excess income it runs over for use in the program the next year.” A drop in cattle numbers and an increase in employee health insurance costs resulted in budget shortfalls. The starting wage for full-time inspectors is around $20,000, so they have a hard time filling those positions with qualified candidates, said Melvin Leland, the chairman of the state Board of Animal Health.

When the increase was proposed last summer, the Independent Beef Association of North Dakota (I-BAND) called for a performance audit to make sure the funds currently being collected were accounted for and managed efficiently. Larry Kinev, I-BAND president and a cow-calf producer from Dawson, said he doesn’t think there have been any instances of impropriety or abuse of the funds, but clarity and transparency are two things his group seeks. Some of the staff and expenses are shared between the NDSA and the brand program, and that’s one of the things Kinev would like to be clearer. “While they’re audited, they don’t tell you salaries. They tell you percentages, but not how much is paid, and if the brand program is charged the same rate as the policy organization.”

He said he’s not optimistic about getting a performance audit because it would have to be requested by the legislature. “They told me to bring them a smoking gun and we’ll do it. I’m not looking for a smoking gun. I’m looking for efficiencies and deficiencies.” He said the brand inspection program doesn’t fall under the government oversight rules that other agencies do, that require salaries and budgets to be made public. “You have a pseudo-government agency that is being run by a policy organization.” Some members of I-BAND would like to see it returned to state administration, but Kinev said that’s not a goal they’re working toward.

Written comments on the rule changes will be accepted until Jan. 20. To submit them, write to North Dakota Department of Agriculture Animal Health Division, 600 E. Boulevard Ave., Dept. 602, Bismarck, ND 58505-0020. You can also submit comments online .

If you have any questions, call the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association office at (701) 223-2522 or the Board of Animal Health at 701-328-2655 or 800-242-7535.