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Agriculture and Natural Resources Interim Report

Agriculture and Natural Resources Interim Report – Senator Phil Murphy

Yeah, I know I just wrote last week, but in the meantime our Ag/Natural Res. Interim committee met for the first time. Because I am surrounded by farm land, its farmers and the trucks hauling their production as well as serving on Natural Resources during the sessions, I asked to be on this committee between sessions.

In Natural Resources, our testimony and discussion centered on an issue that came up this spring during session – one that we thought maybe needed some looking into. It is about the ND Game and Fish Department and allocating special licenses for charitable purposes. You hunters that apply for once in a lifetime lottery licenses know how tough it can be to get drawn, let alone the difficulty now presenting itself with gun deer licenses down by two thirds from their high. What has been happening is that worthwhile causes (a sampling of these entities include Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Mule Deer Foundation, Hunter Education, terminally ill children, Wounded Warriors, Camp Grafton for disabled Vets, etc) have been awarded licenses that sometimes are raffled off to benefit the habitat for that species here in ND, others are simply given so that someone can hunt. One of the problems is that because some are so limited (Bighorns are usually three, one of which gets raffled off would be the extreme example) it can get to be problematic about when to say no to a worthy organization. Another is the heart-wrenching circumstance of saying no to Annie’s House or a Wounded Warrior. Who would want to do that? Not many politicians, for sure.

So we talked about who should be making the call on these – by my count, up to about 35 special licenses are issued annually with the number growing each session and the number of potential asks practically unlimited as you can well imagine. I come down on the side of our scientists at Game and Fish telling us when enough is enough. Habitat has changed considerably over the decades as farming methods and national farm programs come and go. Winters can be relatively nice whereas some are inescapably brutal. Populations of all of our species rebound or are decimated with these factors and our game managers are getting better and better as their information over the decades improves. But others do not want to allow G&F the sole ability to give the licenses to whomever they wish. Some say that it could lead to self-serving decisions because when raffled, these organizations then spend the money in conjunction with our Department to improve the habitat (RMEF or NA Wild Sheep for example). I understand their concerns and we will have to work on this in meetings to come.

The Agricultural topics were much more wonky because it consisted solely of Century Code rewrites. Since the 07-08 interim, 27 chapters have been rewritten to reflect modern language usage and to unclutter over a hundred years of part time legislators making law. Please go through the code, we told our attorneys, and clean up such fascinating chapters as State Seed Dept.,Estray Inspection, Noxious Weed Control and Beekeeping. So they did. It has taken eight years to go through 27. There are 80 left. So, we started last Thursday on proposed rewrites of; Plant Pest Control, then Eggs, Industrial Hemp, Meat Inspection, County Extension Agents, Livestock, Northern Crops Institute and others. I learned the term “Wonk” in the nineties to mean someone who would willingly work on what I would consider dry material until their heads hit the desk resulting in a thudding “WONK”. Glad we have some of those on staff.

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