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North Dakota Grain Growers to Leave National Association of Wheat Growers

Growers’ organization cites high cost, lack of equitable representation.

The North Dakota Wheat Grain Growers Association has withdrawn its membership in the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG), in response to a spat that began more than two years ago over how NAWG represents North Dakota wheat growers. 

In a statement released on May 7, Jeff Mertz, NDGGA president, said simply that North Dakota wheat producers weren’t getting enough return on investment in their membership of NAWG. 

“…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. NAWG still provides value to producers on a national level. 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 NAWG responded with a statement of its own:

“It is with much disappointment to announce that the North Dakota Grain Growers Association (NDGGA) has decided to withdraw their membership from the National Association of Wheat Growers, effective June 30, 2019, the end of NAWG’s current fiscal year.” NAWG President Ben Scholz made the following statement in response:

“​Despite tremendous effort and NAWG conducting hundreds of meetings with members of Congress and the administration on behalf of all our states including North Dakota, NDGGA leadership has indicated they will leave NAWG. 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.”​

North Dakota’s nearly 20,000 wheat producers grew some 363 million bushels of wheat in 2018, including 318 million bushels of spring wheat and 42 million bushels of durum wheat. North Dakota’s departure leaves NAWG with 20 state association members, who use NAWG to champion federal farm policy and environmental regulations.  

According to a March report from the Red River Farm Network, the North Dakota Grain Growers Association has a long-standing beef with NAWG on policy issues. In March, the Red River Farm Network reported Mertz saying that in 2008, NAWG would not give a letter of support to obtain a quality adjustment from the Risk Management Agency for the North Dakota wheat crop. 

The RRFN added that NDGGA paid nearly a quarter-million dollars in dues for 2019, about 80% of the state association’s annual budget. 

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