North Dakota group leaves National Association of Wheat Growers | TSLN.com

North Dakota group leaves National Association of Wheat Growers

The North Dakota Grain Growers (NDGGA), which represents wheat growers who vie with Kansas to be No. 1 in production, has dropped its membership in the National Association of Wheat Growers.

The NDGGA, which also represents barley growers, notified NAWG on May 5 that its board of directors had voted unanimously to disaffiliate. NAWG said in a news release today that the decision was a “disappointment.”

In a news release, NDGGA President Jeff Mertz said, “After months of careful consideration, the North Dakota Grain Growers Association has decided to withdraw from the National Association of Wheat Growers.”

“Although we’ve enjoyed a beneficial partnership with NAWG since 1977, in recent years we’ve seen a decline in support for issues specifically affecting North Dakota,” Mertz said.

“Considering North Dakota has consistently paid some of the highest dues out of all states represented by NAWG, we believe we’re no longer seeing an adequate return on investment and have decided not to renew our contract that expires June 30, 2019.

“NAWG still provides value to producers on a national level. However, our foremost focus is on North Dakota farmers, and at this time we believe we can better represent their best interests by investing our resources elsewhere.”

Dan Wogsland, the NDGGA executive director, added in an email, “North Dakota wheat farmers will still be very well represented in Washington D.C. by NDGGA lobbyists in Washington D.C. that are in tune with North Dakota issues and interests.”

Wogsland did not responding to an email asking that he name any NDGGA lobbyists outside NAWG.

In early March, Red River Farm Network reported that Mertz had said NAWG should be more proactive on policy issues. The discontent goes back many years, Mertz told RRFN.

“Like in 2008, we had the ability to get a quality adjustment from RMA [the USDA’s Risk Management Agency] and all we needed was a letter from NAWG, and we couldn’t motivate NAWG to give us a letter (of support) for the (congressional) delegation.”

“It also comes down to a matter of return on investment,” Mertz continued. “The NDGGA dues for NAWG this year would be nearly a quarter-million dollars, which represents nearly 80% of the NDGGA annual budget.”

“Two years ago, the North Dakota organization paid only half of the required dues because of the drought. A similar proposal was overwhelmingly rejected this year by the NAWG board. North Dakota has sought a bylaws change to have representation in NAWG based on wheat production, but that has not materialized,” Mertz said.

At that time, Mertz said, “We left the door open and hopefully we can come to an agreement that is equitable for both sides.”

NAWG President Ben Scholz, a Texas grower, said in a news release, “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.”

“NAWG leadership and staff did everything possible to address NDGGA’s concerns, from private briefings to ramped up communications to our states to traveling to North Dakota with a third-party facilitator to address issues, and yet they have still decided to resign their membership.

“As the president of a trade association, it always disappoints me when one of our members isn’t pleased with productivity,” Scholz said.

“In this case, NAWG went above and beyond to meet the concerns of NDGGA by giving them a national voice on Capitol Hill. NDGGA chose to put their own priorities ahead of the national organization, which is not how a national association can run effectively.

“The past two years North Dakota put their interests ahead of all wheat growers across the country by withholding half their dues, making it difficult to carry out the overall mission of the organization.

“It is unfortunate that a major wheat-producing state, who provided unique insight into national policy and influenced others in the industry, won’t be moving forward with NAWG,” Scholz said.

–The Hagstrom Report