Ranchers set policy at NDSA convention

Oct 29, 2011
by WLJ

N e a r l y 350 cattle producers gathered in Bismarck, ND, Sept. 22-24 for the 82nd Annual North Dakota Stockmen’s Association (NDSA) Convention & Trade Show, “Together, Facing the Storm,” to set the direction of the state’s beef cattle industry through policy discussions and development. “I’m extremely proud of the grassroots work of the NDSA,” said Jason Schmidt, Medina, ND, rancher and NDSA president. “Members recognize the value of working together to identify priorities and find solutions to the storms we face in the cattle industry, and our policies are the product of that collaboration.”

The NDSA policy-making process begins in the committee meetings where members initiate, discuss and debate new and expiring resolutions.

Committees include Ag Policy & Environmental Issues, Animal Health, Brand & Theft, Feeding & Marketing, and Research & Education.

Safeguarding the health of the domestic herd was the theme of several animal health-related resolutions passed or renewed at the convention. Members reinstated the Foreign Cattle Imports resolution, which opposes the importation of cattle from countries with known animal health diseases until the possibility of infecting U.S. livestock is remote, and indicates that diseases traced back to imported cattle be the full responsibility and liability of the country of origin.

In an effort to maintain swift disease surveillance and diagnosis, NDSA members also passed the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory resolution, supporting program, staff and technology needs for North Dakota State University’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, and renewed policies endorsing the Professional Student Exchange Program and the availability of more food-animal veterinarians.

To increase beef demand, NDSA members also renewed their beef checkoff resolution, which pledges support of the industry’s promotion, research and education program and encourages an open discussion about amending the Act and Order to enhance the per-head assessment and restore the checkoff’s buying power. NDSA members were instrumental in getting the national beef checkoff passed more than 25 years ago.

Members also renewed resolutions recognizing the North Dakota Cattle- Women, NDSA’s auxiliary organization, for its voluntary work to build beef demand and directing some checkoff dollars be earmarked to educate teachers and their students about modern beef production and nutrition. NDSA also called upon Congress and the administration to develop a balanced budget through realistic spending priorities and budget cuts, but identified agricultural research and extension as critical funding priorities that should be preserved.

Under the private property rights umbrella, NDSA members passed three separate, but related, resolutions opposing wilderness and wild-andscenic-river designations and the Antiquities Act, which allows the president to designate national monuments without congressional approval. NDSA members assert that such designations often result in diminished ability to graze livestock and manage those lands as the landowner sees fit and are the first step in further regulation.

NDSA members likewise reaffirmed their belief that perpetual easements evade the private property rights and hamstring the management ability of fu ture generations in the Perpetual Easement resolution. “North Dakota cattle producers support conservation, as well as the rights of current and future generations to manage grasslands relevant to modern stewardship practices,” said Schmidt. “The resolution explains that voluntary, renewable, single-generation conservation easements are far superior to those with perpetual terms and strike a more appropriate balance of values.”

A series of Ag Policy & Environmental Issues resolutions focused on surface owner issues and challenges that have arisen as new technology has allowed North Dakota’s substantial oil reserves to be tapped. Members passed policy supporting a fair compensation plan that better reflects the lost production of developed land, elevation of surface owner rights, enforcement of current statute and changes to the permitting process to allow for more input from townships, counties and cities in the development process to reduce infrastructure impacts. “These resolutions will help the association continue its meaningful dialogue with the energy industry and others so that we can promote the growth of both energy and agriculture in this state,” Schmidt said.

In the National Grasslands Management resolution, members opposed the Dakota Prairie Grasslands Plan and called for the utilization of North- Dakota-generated and range-science-supported alternatives that promote wildlife and rangeland health without significant livestock reductions. The resolution also lends support to the idea of returning the management of the national grasslands to grass-minded agencies, as it had been previously.

The environment was the subject of a couple other new and renewed resolutions. In the Clean Water policy, members assert support for voluntary, incentive-based and locally controlled approaches to clean water. In the Endangered Species Act Risk Assessments policy, members emphasize the need for effective, commonsense tools for insect, fungi and rodent control and call for statutory changes to facilitate a more reasonable consultation process for the registration of such products.

The court’s recent order to cancel the federal registration of a popular prairie dog bait and a related lawsuit by environmental activist organizations were catalysts for the resolution.

A complete list of the new and renewed NDSA policies will be published in the November North Dakota Stockman magazine. The "2011 NDSA Resolution Book," which will include all policies passed in 2009, 2010 and 2011, will also be available soon and is available upon request by calling 701/223-2522. — WLJ