Annual ND Stockmen's convention comes at exciting time

With record-high cattle prices and rising numbers in North Dakota, an organization dedicated to the industry has a lot to celebrate. "It's a good time to be in the beef industry," says Julie Ellingson, executive vice president for the North Dakot...

The North Dakota Stockmen's Association says it's an exciting time to own cattle, like these shown near the little Badlands about 10 miles south of South Heart. (April Baumgarten/Forum News Service)

With record-high cattle prices and rising numbers in North Dakota, an organization dedicated to the industry has a lot to celebrate.

"It's a good time to be in the beef industry," says Julie Ellingson, executive vice president for the North Dakota Stockmen's Association.

The association's 85th annual Convention and Trade Show runs Thursday through Saturday at the Ramada Grand Dakota Lodge in Dickinson and is expected to draw as many as 450 people, Ellingson says.

Cattlemen across the country are experiencing some of the highest beef prices in history. North Dakota was the only state to see an increase in its inventory to 943,000 head of cattle --the highest since 2005. The jump pushed the state into the top 10 for cattle numbers in the industry from 13th to ninth.

Mike Murphy of CattleFax will discuss these record prices and how producers can develop strategies to capitalize on the industry during a session at 8:15 a.m. Saturday.


While cattle producers have seen success in the state, it hasn't come without struggle, Ellingson says. She mentions the Waters of the U.S. rule proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency. The rule is meant to clarify EPA jurisdiction over waters that flow into navigable waters, EPA officials say.

The Stockmen's Association has taken a stance against the rule, stating it would expand jurisdiction and affect day-to-day operations for ranchers.

"We have concerns in the livestock industry that that is an overreach of government," Ellingson says.

The convention is hosting Allison Weidman, an acting agriculture counselor to the EPA administrator. She will discuss the rule and other agricultural issues the agency is working on. The session, which will follow Murphy's presentation, will give ranchers a chance to ask questions about the rule and voice their opinion.

Also at the convention is Kristina Butts, executive director of legislative affairs for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. She will discuss cattle issues surfacing in Washington, D.C., including country-of-origin labeling, dietary guidelines, international trade, taxes and the farm bill. She takes the podium during the general session at 8:15 a.m. Saturday.

Another important session for members is the committee meetings 1 to 5 p.m. on Friday. The meetings will give members a chance to discuss and pass policy on several issues, including the Waters of the U.S. rule, property and income taxes and the Clean Water, Wildlife and Parks Amendment, which goes to the voters during the general election in November. The association has also taken a stance against the amendment.

"We want to celebrate successes in our business and to put our heads together and find solutions to the problems that we face," Ellingson says. "We are expecting a good crowd with a lot of interaction from our members who drive our policy as the grassroots and give us the direction to staff and directors to be their voice and carry their policy to decision makers."

The Stockmen's Association convention and North Dakota Petroleum Council's annual meeting --which began Tuesday and concludes Thursday -- brings representatives from North Dakota's top two industries to Dickinson this week. Oil and mining recently surpassed agriculture as the state's top industry.


Many members of Stockmen's Association are surface owners and live off the land. While mineral owners are hoping to gain a profit from the oil boom, Ellingson says it is important to find a way to balance everyone's needs and protect surface owners' rights.

The association will also honor several people during its annual banquet on Saturday.

Stockmen's Association President Jason Zahn of Towner will be given honorary membership. Ag media representative Terry Robinson of Bismarck and rancher Stanley Pope of Bowman, who both passed away in 2013, will also receive honorary membership. The Woroniecki Brothers Ranch in Hebron has been named Ranchers of the Year.

The pre-registration period has passed, but there is registration from noon to 2 p.m. Thursday. There is also one-day registration, as the association understands ranchers are busy this season and can't always make it to every session.

What To Read Next
Get Local


Agweek's Picks