North Dakota interim committee discusses beef commission makeup
On February 15, 2022, The North Dakota Interim Committee on Agriculture discussed a report presented to them regarding the different checkoff boards in the state and their process for selecting board members. They then talked over a concept to change the selection process for the North Dakota Beef Council from an appointment process to an election system.
The current system requires that the governor appoint members as follows:
4 members of the North Dakota Stockmen (three producers, 1 feeder)
1 member of the milk producers association
1 member of the livestock marketing association and
3 at large members
Most other boards provide a process for board members to be elected, while the North Dakota Beef Commission is set up to provide for the Governor to appoint members.
Some people complained that the NDBC process opens the door for the appointment process to be politicized.
Larry Kinev with the Independent Beef Association discussed a proposal that had been shared with the interim committee members.
He said their proposal would create eight districts, with one NDBC member being elected from each district.
Kinev said the eight districts were developed based on cattle numbers, and is just a foundation for a potential law change.
Rancher Frank Tomac testified in favor of a more relaxed conversation style discussion to “hash this out” rather than an official hearing. A senator responded that it wouldn’t be allowed due to legislative rules, but that during the official legislative session a subcommittee can be appointed, although the interim committee is not able to appoint a subcommittee.
Julie Ellingson, the North Dakota Stockmen Association’s Executive Vice President offered in her words, an explanation of the federal checkoff referendum effort, which she said was a referendum “to end the beef checkoff. It would have eliminated it.” However, the referendum itself states it is to call a referendum and an “up or down vote” for the checkoff. In other words, the referendum would have brought the issue to a vote, it would not have automatically ended the checkoff.
She testified about the makeup of the beef commission, pointing out that there are three at large seats open for appointment by the governor.
The NDSA discussed the NDBC board makeup at their convention she said. Their organization’s policy calls for them to only consider changes that “enhance beef demand and bring value back to livestock producers,” she said.
“I think it’s important that we look at changes through that lens, does this bring added value back to beef producers?” is a question that her organization believes ought to be considered.
On that note, TSLN asked an NDBC member in an NDBC meeting last June to provide a return on investment report regarding the producer dollars it has put toward international promotion. The NDBC member said he would find that information but it has not yet surfaced.
Ellingson testified that two individuals sitting in the room recently returned from the national convention for the NCBA and the Cattlemen’s Beef Board, saying she is proud that two North Dakota individuals (who attended the hearing) are sitting on committees composed of 20 people total – one on the Federation of State Beef Council Beef Promotion and Operating Committee and one on the CBB’s Operating committee – who have final say in programs funded by the national Beef Checkoff.
“I want to make sure North Dakota producers know they have two people from their state to use as that sounding board,” she said.
Ellingson testified in response to some confusion about whether or not she serves on the NDBC, saying her organization, the NDSA, is a separate organization from the NDBC, but that they have submitted requests for projects to be funded and that they work closely with the NDBC.
At least two senators said that they believed the issue of the makeup of the NDBC “deserves attention” because it continues to be brought up.
Representative Kiefert pointed out that there are always comments brought up about the difficulty in obtaining refunds, for those who choose to do so. “What would be the problem with having an opt-out box?” asked Representative Kiefert, regarding the mandatory, refundable state beef checkoff.
Alan Lund, a Sioux County producer urged support of the proposed bill establish an election process for the NDBC board “It’s been brought up that there are at large positions. I ran for it. I needed three references. I know other gentlemen that ran for it, they needed three references. Not one of these references were even contacted. I know another individual who ran, he was appointed before the process was even over with,” said Lund. “So I have no disrespect for the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association…I would have loved to get on this (the NDBC). I’m on many boards, I have an open mind, I could bring a lot to a board like this. I would challenge someone to show me one at large person in the last 20 years that wasn’t probably nominated by the Stockmen’s Association and I’ll stand corrected if I can be proven wrong. Thank you,” said Lund.
Jason Schmidt, an ex president of the Stockmen and past member of the NDBC, testified that for checkoff boards that are selected via elections, that a “handful” of people make the decision on board members.
Schmidt would like to see a mechanism to increase the checkoff over time.
“I just don’t want to see you guys keep letting this fester,” he said, regarding the discussion to make changes. He doesn’t believe there are any problems with the NDBC and hopes no changes are made to the board composition or selection process.
Senator Lueck asked if it would be better or worse for at large member to be appointed by the ag commissioner rather than the governor. Schmidt said it’s still a political appointment over time, and he doesn’t know if it would change anything.
“People may disagree with how it’s done but it’s a grassroots process,” he claimed, describing the system that allows the governor to appoint all board members to the NDBC.
NDBC Board member Travis Maddock testified last, which gave him the ability to respond to previous testimony. Legally, beef checkoff dollars cannot be used to lobby.
“The checkoff is working incredibly well, demand is at an all time high,” he testified.
Data shows that beef consumption is down, however.
No witnesses were given the chance to refute Maddock’s testimony.
No action was taken regarding the North Dakota Beef Commission.
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