N.D. Stockmen’s assoc. addresses legislative issues
February 4, 2015
The North Dakota Stockmen's Association has been weighing in on issues impacting cattle producers at the State Capitol every day since the North Dakota Legislative Session commenced on Jan. 6.
The depressed oil prices have created a more somber atmosphere in the halls, as this is expected to impact oil tax revenue, which has significantly contributed to the state's resources over the years. A preliminary forecast has most legislators set on tightening the state's belt in terms of spending. An official Moody's forecast will be coming in March.
The Stockmen's Association has been working on a range of bills so far this session. In the research and education area, it is advocating for the rebuilding of the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (VDL) on the North Dakota State University campus. The facility plays a critical role in beef cattle diagnostics. Unfortunately, the VDL's accreditation has been threatened over the last several years, not because of the scientists or the quality of their work, but because the lab itself does not meet modern laboratory standards. This project was identified as the number one capital improvement project on the State Board of Agricultural Research and Education's priority list and was included in the governor's budget, so the NDSA is hopeful that it will be included in the final bill. HB 1020 also includes provisions for a livestock specialist to be stationed at the Hettinger Research Extension Center and a community vitality program that will deliver farm and ranch succession training to families, which the NDSA supports. Another important bill would reinvigorate the state's Agricultural Research Fund with an added appropriation and a new funding source.
The Stockmen's Association is also supporting a bill that would enhance the beef checkoff by adding $1 to the existing assessment to be used for beef promotion, research and education. The current beef checkoff went into place in 1985, and the assessment continues to be $1. At the same time, inflation has diminished the value of the dollar to about 40 percent of what it was back then, and lower overall cattle numbers have reduced the industry's pool of resources to work on demand-building efforts. The bill in the legislature includes provisions to allow a full refund of the additional assessment for those who do not want to participate and to deactivate the new program if the national beef checkoff is increased. The bill has broad support from the NDSA, North Dakota CattleWomen, North Dakota Milk Producers Association, North Dakota Corn Growers Association, North Dakota Soybean Growers Association and North Dakota Barley Council as a way to fortify and enhance animal Ag in North Dakota.
Tax policy is another important area the NDSA has been concentrating time on. Among a host of bills is the one that will create a more uniform application of modifiers in agricultural property tax assessments. The NDSA worked with committee members to ensure that classifications are not based solely on an arbitrary production index number and that topography is taken into consideration even if soil survey information indicates prime soils.
There are many landowner protection bills being considered, ranging from a pipeline ombudsman pilot program to enhanced resources for reclamation challenges.
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The NDSA is working on a variety of bills to support veterinarians, including support for the Vet Loan Repayment Program and the Professional Student Exchange Program. It also engaged with legislators on a bill that aims to study the role of emerging technologies in the field of vet medicine.
This is just a snapshot of a few of the issues the organization is working on.
NDSA members can stay abreast of the happenings at the legislature by subscribing to a free weekly newsletter, the "Legislative Ledger," which the organization issues each Friday afternoon, by calling (701) 223-2522.