North Dakota wheat growers leave NAWG

The state organization is one of the National Association of Wheat Growers’ highest dues payers, along with Kansas

The U.S. National Association of Wheat Growers has lost one of its top dues-paying states.

The North Dakota Grain Growers Association (NDGGA) has decided to leave the organization, ending a more than four-decade relationship.

The contract between the state and national associations expires on June 30 and will not be renewed.

“It seems like North Dakota’s concerns are always on the back burner, even though we pay some of the largest dues,” said NDGGA president Jeff Mertz.

NAWG president Ben Scholz was clearly annoyed by North Dakota’s decision.

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

“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.”

Mertz said North Dakota’s budget has been constrained by drought and surging acres of corn and soybeans.

He felt NAWG was being too loose with its money. North Dakota has hired its own Washington lobbyist, who is costing the state association a fraction of what it was paying NAWG in annual dues.

Tension between the two groups goes back a long way. For instance, there were issues with the 2008 farm bill.

North Dakota wanted a quality loss provision included in the crop insurance component of the bill but could not get the support it needed from NAWG because it wasn’t a big issue for winter wheat growing states.

“We couldn’t even muster up support from NAWG to get a simple letter of approval out to our senator so he could take it forward,” said Mertz.

However, the provision did make it into the 2018 farm bill after growers in Kansas and the Pacific Northwest experienced quality issues.

“It is 10 years too late,” said Mertz.

“We’ve all had scab in our durum, vomitoxin, etc.”

Chandler Goule, chief executive officer of NAWG, is “disappointed and troubled” by North Dakota’s decision.

The state alternates with Kansas as NAWG’s top dues payer, contributing about $225,000 per year to the national organization.

Most of the 21 member states have agreed to increase their contributions for one year while NAWG devises a new strategic plan.

Goule said none of his team were around in 2008 when North Dakota was pushing for quality losses to be included in crop insurance coverage, but they were able to get it into the 2018 farm bill.

Mertz said that was far from the only issue. Another bone of contention is NAWG’s senate-style governance, where each state gets two delegates on the board regardless of whether it pays $5,000 or $225,000 in annual dues.

He said that system prevents the biggest dues paying states from getting the attention they deserve.

Goule said Mertz is forgetting that NAWG has a bylaw allowing any state to call for a weighted vote on any policy issue.

Under that scenario, each state gets votes equal to each dollar of their annual contribution, so North Dakota would have received 225,000 votes.

One of North Dakota’s state-specific issues is the inequitable treatment that U.S. wheat receives in the Canadian market.

Goule said NAWG lobbied hard to address that issue through the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. If a variety is approved in both countries, it will now get full value rather than feed wheat value.

NAWG is also working with Canadian officials to streamline the variety registration process.

Goule said no other member states have threatened to leave the association and the door is open for North Dakota to rejoin the group at any time.

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