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Published February 08, 2011, 11:04 AM

Oil and infrastructure are major thrust of ND bills

BISMARCK, N.D. — Oil and infrastructure are the two primary themes in the North Dakota Legislature this year, but there are many bills that intersect with agriculture policy.

By: Mikkel Pates, Agweek

BISMARCK, N.D. — Oil and infrastructure are the two primary themes in the North Dakota Legislature this year, but there are many bills that intersect with agriculture policy.

There aren’t as many ag bills per se, as in some sessions, but several are being watched by North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring.

Dane Braun, recently added as a program and policy analyst in the department, details a number of bills on the docket.

Here are the main ones:

- SB2325: This bill pegs $73.6 million to the Department of Transportation for a county and township road reconstruction program. This follows on a “needs study” that was completed by the Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute earlier this year. Goehring is in favor of the bill and was scheduled to testify on this Feb. 3, saying that the need is throughout the state, in addition to what is needed in the oil industry.

- SB2222: Sponsors include Sens. Tim Flakoll, R-Fargo, and Bill Bowman, R-Bowman, as well as Reps. Dennis Johnson, R-Devils Lake, and Tracy Boe, D-Rolette. These lawmakers are promoting a bill that provides seed money for organizations or agricultural groups to develop new crop insurance products. The bill is designed to get the projects to the Federal Crop Insurance Corp. board level.

“It takes $20,000 to $50,000 to get crop insurance concepts to the first level at the FCIC,” Braun says. “This is for development costs and peer reviews. Once the projects hit the FCIC board and is approved, they are eligible for up to 50 percent federal advance payment for estimated costs for the remainder of the development.”

Goehring is in favor of the bill. Other leaders working on the bill are Dan Wogsland, executive director of the North Dakota Grain Growers Association, and Steve Edwardson, executive administrator of the North Dakota Barley Council, whose groups are supporting it. Proponents seek $1 million for the biennium for this purpose. The hearing is Feb. 3.

- HB1349: The bill by Rep. John D. Wall, R-Wahpeton, would require agricultural truck drivers to certify and for farmers to verify that they don’t have recent infractions. Among other things, they must certify that they 1) are at least 18 years of age, 2) have no more than one driving-under-the-influence violation in past three years, 3) have not had revocation or suspension of driving privileges within three years, 4) have no pending actions that would revoke or suspend privileges, 5) have not had a drug-related offense within the past three years and 6) no pending actions. The bill was heard in committee and the committee hasn’t voted on it.

Under the bill, the truck driver has to fill out a form and the farmer would have to get the record from the Department of Transportation verifying this.

Currently, drivers of vehicles transporting agricultural products are legal with a Class D license. With that, they can haul agricultural products up to 150-mile radius without getting a commercial driver’s license. Ag groups testified that there should be increased safety requirements, but perhaps not those in this bill.

- HB1367: This bill handles some housekeeping involving the department. An example is the removal of a double-

reporting requirement for foreign or “alien” land owners that had been grandfathered in and owned land before 1979. The law required these landowners to report holdings to the state. The same report is done at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. After 1979, only Canadians and permanent resident aliens of the U.S. could purchase agricultural land in the state, with a few exceptions. One exception is dairy farms of a certain size. The bill passed the House.

- HB1462 is one of various bills involving oil. This bill tasks the North Dakota Department of Agriculture with helping settle disputes between surface owners and mineral owners through its Ag Mediation service. Rep. Glen Froseth, R-Bottineau, is working on one of the bills, which, among other things, would change the service name to North Dakota Mediation Service. Mediation help would be nonbinding. An earlier bill, SB 2131, which would have given some royalties to surface holders, but was failed in the Senate, 6 to 40.

- SB2085: Would prohibit the sale of plants that are noxious weeds. Braun says some large retailers have been selling plant products for landscaping that technically are noxious weeds. Current legislation is more focused on landowners controlling the products, but no laws prevented the sale. The bill passed the Senate.