The North Dakota Grain Growers Association has withdrawn from the National Association of Wheat Growers, which lobbies nationally for the wheat producers.
“Although we’ve enjoyed a beneficial partnership with NAWG since 1977, in recent years we’ve seen a decline in support for issues specifically affecting North Dakota,” reads a statement from NDGGA. “Considering North Dakota has consistently paid some of the highest dues out of all states represented by NAWG, we believe we’re no longer seeing an adequate return on investment and have decided not to renew our contract that expires June 30, 2019.”
North Dakota wheat producers will still have a presence in Washington, D.C., though. Last year, NDGGA hired its own lobbyist and plans to do so in the coming year.
“Doing it on our own is just more cost effective,” says Jeff Mertz, NDGGA president and a Hurdsfield, N.D., farmer.
North Dakota is one of the largest wheat producing states in the U.S. and paid more than $220,000 a year in dues to belong to NAWG. But North Dakota didn’t have any more votes on the board than the smallest wheat producing state, which paid about $7,000 per year, he says.
In 2017 and 2018, NDGGA paid only half its dues to NAWG because of the expected loss of wheat acres in the eastern North Dakota to corn and soybeans, and the decline in production in the central and western part of the state due to drought.
It requested that it be allowed to pay only half its dues in 2019 and would go back to full dues if the voting structure were changed. That request was flatly turned down by the board, Mertz says.
“NAWG still provides value to producers on a national level,” according to NDGGA’s statement. “However, our foremost focus is on North Dakota farmers, and at this time we believe we can better represent their best interests by investing our resources elsewhere.”
The board’s vote to withdraw from NAWG was unanimous, Mertz says.
NAWG issued a statement about NDGGA’s withdrawal, which read in part:
“NAWG leadership and staff did everything possible to address NDGGA’s concerns, from private briefings to ramped up communications to our states to traveling to North Dakota with a third-party facilitator to address issues, and yet they have still decided to resign their membership. As the President of a trade association, it always disappoints me when one of our members isn’t pleased with productivity.
“In this case, NAWG went above and beyond to meet the concerns of NDGGA by giving them a national voice on Capitol Hill. NDGGA chose to put their own priorities ahead of the national organization, which is not how a national association can run effectively. The past two years North Dakota put their interests ahead of all wheat growers across the country by withholding half their dues, making it difficult to carry out the overall mission of the organization.
“It is unfortunate that a major wheat-producing state, who provided unique insight into national policy and influenced others in the industry, won’t be moving forward with NAWG.”