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ND House to take up HB 1487 tomorrow

The North Dakota House of Representatives will vote on the bill to make the North Dakota beef checkoff voluntary tomorrow, Feb. 9, 2021.

The North Dakota House Agricultural Committee moved this bill out of their committee with a “do not pass” recommendation. The committee heard several hours of testimony on this bill. In online testimony, at least 43 people supported the bill, while about 24 opposed the bill.

The two committee members who did not support the “do not pass” recommendation were Kathy Skroch from Lidgerwood who is the only rancher on the committee and Dwight Kiefert, a farmer/contractor from Valley City. Both are Republicans.

The $1 mandatory refundable North Dakota state beef checkoff was implemented in 2015. It is in addition to the $1 federal checkoff already collected in North Dakota.

Many ranchers who testified last week before the committee in support of the bill testified that they were not happy with the more than $750,000 that the North Dakota Beef Commission sends to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, an organization that lobbied to repeal mandatory country of origin labeling for beef. It is not publicly known how much of these funds are used for promotion, research and education and how much are utilized by NCBA as administrative or implementation fees.

Several people also provided testimony about the difficulty they have encountered when requesting a refund of their checkoff dollars.

Those who testified against the bill last week were: the president of the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association, an NDBC board member, a former NCBA executive committee member/former NDBC board member, two different ranchers and a former auction barn owner.

They said they were concerned that if the checkoff were to become voluntary that most North Dakota producers would elect not to contribute. They also shared details about projects that had been funded by the checkoff such as international promotion and research relating to beef’s nutritional value.

Representative Mike Beltz, a farmer from Hillsboro who sits on the ND Dry Bean Council, the North Dakota Soybean Council and the US Dry Bean Council, who supported the “do not pass” motion commented that “…there are implications beyond this group, if this happens….it not only affects you and what happens in your business, it can have an impact on all the ag businesses and all the checkoff groups.”

Even without any state checkoff funding, the North Dakota Beef Commission maintains over $500,000 each year from the federal checkoff, to be used at their discretion for payroll and beef industry projects.

The North Dakota Beef Commission is made up of 9 members appointed by the governor. Four members are from names submitted by the North Dakota Stockmen, one is from names submitted by the North Dakota livestock auction markets, one is from names submitted by the North Dakota milk producers association and three at large members.

North Dakota cattle producers can contact members of the House of Representatives if they wish to ask for support or opposition for the bill in the Feb. 9, 2021 session of the House of Representatives.