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ND farmers support higher taxes for research

Associated Press

BISMARCK, N.D. — Larry Neubauer likely will pay higher taxes on his wheat, barley and sunflowers later this year, but the North Dakota farmer is happy to do it.

Legislators are considering bills to continue or increase the "checkoff" farmers pay on their crops, from barley to sunflowers. Together, three bills in North Dakota would generate an estimated $2.8 million over the next two years.

Farmers say it’s needed for research.

Larry Kleingartner, executive director of the National Sunflower Association, is one of the commodities experts who help plot research strategy for the Agricultural Research Service, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s research arm. He said federal funding for crop research has dropped in recent years as Congress focused on such issues as food safety and the production of plant-based energy.

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"(Farmers) are going to have to take more responsibility for where research is going and how it’s funded if they want research to be done," Kleingartner said.

William Kemp, director of the Fargo Agricultural Research Service facility, said the nation’s economic woes make federal money even more difficult to find.

"We struggle with the same kinds of problems any household does," he said. "We work to get the most out of every research dollar that’s sent our way."

State Rep. Phil Mueller, who farms in the Valley City area, is a sponsor on all three checkoff bills in the North Dakota Legislature. He believes that if farmers do more to support their own industry, they will reap benefits down the line.

"I know what a better strain of barley does — it adds 5 bushels to my yield," he said. "I know what a better strain of wheat does. I don’t have fusarium head blight (scab disease)."

Under the North Dakota proposals, the barley checkoff would rise from 1 cents to 2 cents per bushel. The sunflower rate would go from 3 cents to 4 cents per hundredweight and the flax levy from 2 cents per bushel to 3 cents.

The checkoff for spring wheat and durum wheat, which is used to make pasta, would remain at 1.5 cents per bushel rather than fall to 1.2 cents on July 1, when the three-tenths of a cent dedicated to the trade complaint debt is due to expire.

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