The North Dakota Grain Growers Association is celebrating its 50th anniversary and has taken some time to reflect on the organizations efforts of proactive advocacy, representation, leadership, research and education over the years. NDGGA Immediate Past President President John Weinand says the continued success of the organization can be credited to many dedicated people over the years.
“Agriculture is such an important aspect to the fabric of our state,” Weinand said. “NDGGA’s top priority has always been to help keep the right policies in place for our state’s farmers, something that can be seen throughout our 50 year history.”
The North Dakota Grain Growers Association was originally named the North Dakota Wheat Producers and was founded in 1967 by a collection of farmers and agricultural leaders from across the state in Bottineau. In 1977, the National Association of Wheat Growers granted the North Dakota Wheat Producers a membership charter, which gave the organization a national platform from which to influence and develop policy on behalf of its members.
In 1981, the North Dakota Wheat Producers moved its office to Bismarck to co-locate with other commodity groups, such as the North Dakota Wheat Commission, North Dakota Beef Commission, North Dakota Dairy Council and the North Dakota Sunflower Association. This formed the Ag Foundation, which served as an umbrella group for the commodity groups to increase collaboration and allow producers more efficient access to all groups. In addition, the Ag Foundation began hosting Congressional Staff Tours, which allowed legislators from Washington to tour wheat and barley country and meet grain growing families.
During an economic downtown in the eastern part of the United States in 1984, the North Dakota Wheat Producers participated in Noodles for Needy. This program collected durum wheat from across the state and processed it into noodles that were transported to food shelters throughout Cleveland.
Shortly thereafter, the North Dakota Wheat Producers merged with the North Dakota Barley Growers Association to become the North Dakota Grain Growers Association, a move that further strengthened the organization’s influence in the congressional and legislative arena.
One of the NDGGA’s best examples of proactive advocacy began in 1993 with the start of its annual Environmental Tour, commonly known as the E-Tour. Each summer, EPA officials from Washington visit several agricultural businesses and family farms across the state to highlight the state’s agricultural practices and environmental stewardship. The event promotes understanding and communication regarding the regulations EPA officials write and North Dakota farmers abide by.
Throughout the course of a single year, the NDGGA partners with several organizations in the region to co-host other annual events that provide a stronger voice for the state’s producers. The Big Iron Marketing Seminar occurs in September and is co-hosted with the Minnesota Association of Wheat Growers. This event features take-home strategies and advice for marketing crops. The Prairie Grains Conference occurs in December and is co-hosted with various organizations, such as the the North Dakota Barley Council, Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council and the Minnesota Barley Growers. This event kicks-off the winter agricultural season with a trade show and information seminars that represent a cross section of the agriculture industry.
The North Dakota Department of Agriculture also provides various opportunities to advance North Dakota crops around the nation and world, and NDGGA leaders have joined their delegations in recent years to participate in trade missions to Cuba to explore new markets for grain and have traveled to Washington for a reverse E-tour to discuss environmental issues and policies with EPA officials.
NDGGA President Jeff Mertz says the organization’s efforts to make sure member’s interests are represented is quite impressive. “It really comes down to the simple fact that if we don’t stay involved, someone else will make ag-related decisions for us, such as those found in the Farm Bill,” Mertz said. “Once you acknowledge this and start to recognize the people who have carried the organization this far, it motivates you to ensure the success and profitability of the next generation of North Dakota farmers.”