North Dakota's 2017 Legislative outlook

State-by-state sneak peaks into 2017 Legislature FARGO, N.D. -- Ag research: one of the top priorities of agricultural groups involving the 2017 Legislature in North Dakota. Mike Beltz is chairman of the State Board of Agricultural Research and E...

The North Dakota State Legislature in recent years has invested in numerous North Dakota State University projects, including this new greenhouse complex on the west side of campus, but with declining oil and agricultural revenues, future projects will be delayed. Photo taken Dec. 19, 2016, in Fargo, N.D. (Forum News Service/Agweek/Trevor Peterson)

State-by-state sneak peaks into 2017 Legislature

FARGO, N.D. - Ag research: one of the top priorities of agricultural groups involving the 2017 Legislature in North Dakota.

Mike Beltz is chairman of the State Board of Agricultural Research and Education, a group of state officials who advise North Dakota State University. SBARE has 15 members, including five from the North Dakota Agriculture Coalition, and five from multi-county NDSU Extension districts across the state; as well as the NDSU president, the vice president of agriculture and Extension director.

Beltz says the agricultural groups will deal with budget considerations, while focusing on a balanced budget and showing legislators return on investment that agricultural research provides - $25 of return for every one dollar in an NDSU economic study two years ago, to $38 for every dollar, in a University of Minnesota study, commissioned as a third-party analysis.

Ag promoters say they can't expect the same result as the 2015 session, when the Legislature approved an $18 million appropriation to build a new veterinary diagnostic laboratory. The building is enclosed and is expected to be completed in July or August.


NDSU had completed three agronomy laboratories in Carrington, Hettinger and Streeter, with a $6 million appropriation. The Streeter laboratory was finished with some of the laboratory's own money. Research stations have also planned for updates to seed cleaning facilities, replacing some equipment that has been in place for 50 years.

Last cuts in 2003

Ken Grafton, NDSU vice president of agriculture, says the last time NDSU agriculture faced a potential budget cut was in 2003 when then Gov. John Hoeven, called for a 5 percent reduction. Capital projects will be delayed because of a 10 percent cut proposed by former Gov. Jack Dalrymple. A new budget from Gov. Doug Burgum has not yet been presented.

Other agricultural research priorities for the 2017 to '19 session, as identified by Grafton and Chris Boerboom, director of the NDSU Extension Service, include:

• Restoring the 10 percent budget to 2015 to '17 original appropriations. This is a total of $1.9 million for branch research and extension centers; $5.7 million for the main station, or a total of $7.7 million. For Extension, that's a total of $2.97 million.

• Funding operations for the Experiment Station, including $600,000 for operating an Oakes Irrigation site; $800,000 for enhancing research infrastructure, including 20 graduate research assistantships at $800,000; $600,000 for support of precision ag; $80,000 each for a Soil Health Initiative, wheat improvement, land reclamation research for soil from oil impacts and the Center of Ag Policy and Trade. Based on SBARE direction, NDSU is also seeking enhanced infrastructure at RECs, enhancing work in plant virology and pulse crop pathology.

Sen. Larry Luick, R-Fairmount, N.D., newly-named chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, expects some clean-up work on permitting and liability issues associated with field tiling laws he helped initiate in 2011. The Legislature will consider ways to remove county-to-county discrepancies and address the issues, and also moving valid projects forward. He says there will be "hot discussions" about the use of quick-take eminent domain, with some definition between policies for agriculture and water drainage compared to other industries such as utilities, involving possible deadline extensions.

Rep. Mike Brandenburg, R-Edgeley, chairman of the government operations subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, says there will also be efforts to take the environmental section out of the North Dakota Department of Health, a move in which agriculture, oil and coal are working together. Texas and Oklahoma have done this already. Rep. Keith Kempenich, R-Bowman, will be active on this, Brandenburg says.


Brandenburg also sees adjustments to governance of some of the commodity organizations in the state, including corn and the pea and lentil groups, to ensure that there is a division between political activity, funded by memberships, and spending for research, promotion and education with councils, which raise funds through checkoffs.

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