Ag & Energy: livestock prices, redistricting, & carbon capture

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Here are some of the top ag and energy stories in North Dakota for the week of Monday, March 5th, 2021.

Last summer, North Dakota Farmers Union’s livestock committee released its report on industry reform, calling for fair markets, truth-in-labeling, and an increase in local and regional slaughter capacity. Now, NDFU Government Relations Director Matt Perdue says Senator John Hoeven has joined a bipartisan coalition to reintroduce legislation that would increase transparency in cattle pricing. The proposal would require packers to purchase at least 50% of their cattle from the cash market. The bill was first introduced last May as the coronavirus pandemic caused massive disruptions to cattle and beef prices. NDFU endorsed the legislation in its report on livestock industry reform.

“Right now we have such concentration in this industry. There are only four packers or big processors. Two of them are foreign-owned. So, our producers don’t have the competition they need to get the best prices and to have transparency and competitiveness in the market, so they can decide to know where to sell their cattle and how to get the best prices,” explained Senator John Hoeven (R-ND).

In a separate report on boxed beef and fed cattle price disparities last summer, the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service highlighted the shrinking cash market as a concern.
The number of cash sales has declined to less than 25% of all cattle trades, limiting price transparency and discovery. The legislation could be attached to the Livestock Mandatory Price Reporting reauthorization, which is due by Sep. 30th.

Rural districts were a topic at the N.D. legislature last week as the Senate Political Subdivisions committee took action on a bill to set up a special session for redistricting this fall.
Every ten years following the Census, legislative district lines are redrawn to adjust for changes in population. North Dakota Farm Bureau says preserving rural districts and keeping communities intact will be a primary concern as the redistricting process proceeds.

“We know that some districts will gain size, some districts will be consolidated. We may lose an area of one district in the state. We may gain a district in another area in the state just because populations change. What’s important to remember is that redistricting is vitally important to rural North Dakota particularly because we make up a smaller portion of the population, but we also pay a significant amount, in fact, the lions share of property taxes in most counties,” said NDFB Director of Public Policy Pete Hannebutt.

The committee gave the bill a “do pass” recommendation and the bill is expected to pass the Senate sometime this week and will eventually reach the Governor’s desk.

After twenty years of research on carbon capture in the effort to mitigate climate change, UND’s Energy and Environmental Research Center is on the verge of seeing their science put to commercial use. Red Trail Energy LLC’s ethanol plant in Richardton, ND is set to become the first facility in the state to commercially capture carbon and store it permanently undergrown.

Red Trail Energy is waiting for permitting approval from the Department of Mineral Resources.
EERC says not only does this lay the groundwork for all of ND’s ethanol plants to be carbon zero, it also opens the state’s corn growers and ethanol producers to export to states with low carbon fuel standards, such as California and Oregon.

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