WEST FARGO - The North Dakota Grain Growers Association has voted to withdraw from the National Association of Wheat Growers after its president says came after three years of negotiations with the national organization.

The change will be effective June 30.

The North Dakota group did not feel the national group was representing them fairly on policy issues in Washington, D.C. For example, NDGGA President Jeff Mertz says that the NAWG failed during 2008 Farm Bill discussions to lobby about a quality loss provision in the crop insurance program because it did not impact the southern wheat producing states. All that was needed to get the issue into the bill was a letter of support from NAWG.

"We couldn't muster enough support to get a letter for quality," Mertz says.

Mertz also cited return on investment as a reason to leave NAWG, given the substantial amount paid annually in dues to NAWG. The NDGGA feels it can better represent themselves in lobbying and have hired an individual to carry out their policy priorities. North Dakota, he points out, is the No. 1 wheat producing and exporting state.

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Mertz refuted suggestions that the parting of the two organizations came after hard feelings about the outcome of the national NAWG election some six years ago. Most NDGGA members are active farmers, which does not make it feasible for them to run for the national executive committee, he says.

North Dakota Grain Growers Association President Jeff Mertz
North Dakota Grain Growers Association President Jeff Mertz

"If you're part of a national organization shouldn't have to have someone on executive committee in order to get representation," Mertz says.

He says the NDGGA has been paying only half of their membership dues since 2016 when they first made the decision based on the drought cutting production and acreage. They wanted to continue that practice this year to allow time for negotiations, but the NAWG board voted it down.

Mertz says the North Dakota Grain Growers Association is open to rejoining NAWG in the future if the problems can be worked out.

"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 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," says NAWG President Ben Scholz.