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North Dakota Grain Growers Association votes to leave National Association of Wheat Growers

FARGO, N.D. — The North Dakota Grain Growers Association has voted to withdraw from the National Association of Wheat Growers effective June 30.

North Dakota Grain Growers Association President Jeff Mertz says the decision came after nearly three years of negotiations with NAWG. The North Dakota group did not feel the national group was representing them fairly on policy issues in Washington, D.C. For example, he says NAWG failed during 2008 Farm Bill discussions to lobby about a quality loss provision in the crop insurance program because it did not impact the southern wheat producing states. All that was needed to get the issue into the bill was a letter of support from NAWG.

"We couldn't muster enough support to get a letter for quality," he says.

Chandler Goule, CEO of NAWG, says his organization is disappointed in North Dakota’s decision.

“Our collective voice here in Washington, D.C., is the only way that we can make sure that we continue to have a significant impact on policy, whether its farm bill implementation or ag appropriations or the passage of (the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement),” he says.

Jeff MertzMertz also cited return on investment as a reason to leave NAWG, given the substantial amount paid annually in dues to NAWG. The North Dakota Grain Growers Association feels they can better represent themselves in lobbying and have hired an individual to carry out their policy priorities. North Dakota, he points out, is the No. 1 wheat producing and exporting state.

Goule says NAWG has documented efforts they are making with Congress and the Trump administration on behalf of all states, including 66 meetings in the House and Senate in the past month.

Mertz says the North Dakota Grain Growers Association has been paying only half of their membership dues since 2016 based on the drought cutting production and acreage. They wanted to continue that practice this year to allow time for negotiations, but the NAWG board voted it down. Goule says the North Dakota group put its own interests ahead of all wheat growers by withholding dues, making it difficult to carry out the overall mission of the organization.

The 20 remaining state organizations in NAWG are committed to providing “stopgap” relief to keep moving ahead, Goule says. He doesn’t believe the loss of North Dakota will affect their ability to effectively lobby for the wheat industry in Washington, though the change will have an impact.

“Anytime you have a large member cut their dues in half or choose to withdraw from the organization, ... it does put a direct impact on our ability to carry out the mission for all wheat growers.”

Mertz refuted suggestions that the parting of the two organizations came after hard feelings about the outcome of the national NAWG election some six years ago. Most North Dakota Grain Growers Association members are active farmers, which does not make it feasible for them to run for the national executive committee, he says.

"If you're part of a national organization, you shouldn't have to have someone on the executive committee in order to get representation," Mertz says.

Mertz says the North Dakota Grain Growers Association is open to rejoining NAWG in the future if the problems can be worked out. Goule says NAWG will continue negotiations with the North Dakota group.

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