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Park River , North Dakota
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April 10, 2013     Walsh County Press
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April 10, 2013
 

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PAGE 4 PRESS PERSPECTIVES APRIL 10, 2013 Don't ask me where  my week- end went. It started at the grocery store and ended with me misplac- ing my cell phone, but some- where in the middle there were all sorts of delightful things going on. If you ever hear that Edinburg is doing a Kick it Up a Notch Brunch, go. If you think you are going to be busy that day, cancel everything. This meal is worth it. FROM THE EDITOR'S DESK... BY ALLISOM OLIA4B EDITOR, WALSH COUNTY PRESS I walked into the Edinburg Com- munity Center and could smell the ,deliciousness wafting throfigh the air. After filling our plates my husband asked if I thought it w.as okay to go back for more. After finishing our plates we were so stuffed, going back was almost out of the question. There was a little room to squeeze in some goodies from the arreay of sweets on thedessert table. There were eggs and bacon sessed with, but because it lea- and biscuits and sausage and tured all ages and sounded lovely. gravy and cheeses and caramel It was fun to see kids and rolls and breads and cheesecake adults playing string instruments and smashed potatoes and all together to create music. The muffins and that was just the items I could fit onto my plate. If ever there was a time to say "Uff Dat" that was it. From there I managed a brief nap to recover and then it was off to Park River to Our Saviour's Lutheran Church were the Walsh County Community Orchestra was performing a spring concert: I happened to know a couple of folks in the band who were showing off their skills. My fa- vorite pmce was one called "King's Court" not just because it sounded a bit like the theme song to the show "Game of Thrones" which I am slightly ob- performances were a bit rough in spots, whichcan be expected with beginners right on to ad- vanced performers, but it was fun to be able to take in an orchestra performance on a Sunday after- noon in the middle of Walsh County. Now it is back to the grind doing the day to day but thank you Walsh County for a fantastic Sunday... even if it was snow- ing. Like" the Walsh County Press on Face- hook and check out our blog at http://walsh- coun npress, wordpress, eom - # Hello, I'm kind of like that song that says, "True Grit's the only movie I've understood in years". Oh, I used to be a movie guy. Back in the old days of the Empire theatre in Minot. James Bond movies. Westerns. Take your best girl on Saturday night. Not like I had a lot of best girls. I had to trav- el a couple hundred miles to get a date. Fooled Shirley though. She thought I had money and cows. All I had was the hat! Know what I remember best about the movies? The giant cups of buttered popcorn. Real butter. And I mean big cups. It was so good, you were tempted to eat the big cups because they had so much butter on the inside! But, enough of that. It's about four o'clock in the morning when I'm writing this. I have been up with a couple heifers (bovines) since midnight. You think TV is Hat So, ! want to explain a few things to you non-ranchers. If you see a rancher in the grocery store buying baking soda and beef con- somm6 soup, he's not making meth. He's doctoring scoured calves. Don't ask him if he's opening a restaurant. , If a ranch wife comes in and buys several pair of nylons, she is not going on a vacation. She is buying them to put over calves ears to keep them from freezing. Don't kid her about growing a cou- ple sizes since last fall. If you are sitting patiently at a stop sign and a pickup and trailer bad in the evening? Wait until you runs the sign and is pointed to- try, to find something worth watch- wards the vet clinic, don't call the ing between midnight and 4 a.m. cops. Call the vet and tell him to Tips get his c-section stuff ready. Most years, you can start a fist fight, by commenting that this snow is sure good moisture,. Al- though after the last couple years of drought, short hay, and dry dugouts, you might be able to slip this comment by this year. At least for awhile. If you see a rancher with blood- shot eyes and a weeks worth the whiskers, don't ask him if he has been in a card game. Or just re- turned from Vegas. Don't ask him how it's going. Just snile polite- ly and tell him to havca nice day. If you are eating in  restaurant, and a rancher with ud hay and placenta all over his jtcket is sit- ting next to you, and lis wife has on wore out Carharts and over- shoes, and they have a pickup out- side the caf6 with a calf in the cab, a dog in the back, a heifer in the trailer, and a note from the bank on the dash .... This is important! Do not comment on the high price of beet People have been killed for less. When you get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. Rest assured. You are not the only one up. There is a rancher, or a ranchers wife, or their kids, pulling overshoes on as you pull the cov- ers back up. And they are wading through the mud and snow and missing sleep. And they do it whether calves are thirty cents or a dollar. Whether they are making a hundred dollars a head. Or losing two hundred. They'll do it tonight. And tomor- row. And next year: Why? Cause they are cattle people. Order a steak. They are cheap. Later, Dean NDSU Agriculture Communication Questions of conflicts of inter- est are continuing to haunt the North Dakota policymakers in- volved in the burgeoning oil in- dustry. Inquiries into the issue have been spawned by the governor's ownership of oil stocks and the previous industry connections of Lynn Helmb, director of the State Department of Mineral Resources. As stated it a previous column, he a'eht of the multi-billion doll a!! industry has thrust the state into the big league of high stakes politics. With each new regulation or statute, billions of dollars will be at stake for both the state's citizens and the oil,industry. Thehigher the stakes the greater the pressure to influence. North Dakotans are a trustiag people, believing that almost everybody will do the right thing. That make.s us gullible in this new game of high stakes eco- nomics. And we are not prepared for it. In the first place, we don't have.the statutory or regulato in- frastructure to defend the state s in- terests. Recently, the Center for Public Integrity, Global Integrity and Study Claims ND Flurt00s Corruption Test Public Radio International teamed up to study the vulnerability of the 50 states to corruption. North Dakota was awarded the grade of "F" and ranked 43rd in the coun- try in preparedness to prevent corruption. No state received an "n". The state flunked in a number of categories, including disclo- sure of political financing, leg- islativ+e accountability, disclosure of lobbying, ethics enforcement and legislative redistricting. The report was based on a "state integrity index" of 330 in- tegrity indicators across 14 cate- gories of state government. Journalists in each state were in- volved in the interviews and re- search. Their work was reviewed by other knowledgeable persons in the state. There wasn't a lot of room for subjectivity because it was primarily a matter of check- ing our statutes and regulations. Writing a summary article for the Center for Public Integrity, a nonpartisan investigative news organization, Caitlin Ginley not-) ed that 41 states have commissions to monitor ethics but they are in- effective because they lack in- vestigative powers and staff. A review of these 41 ethics commissions tells us why they are ineffective: they are almost all con- trolled by the politicians whose ethics they were created to mon- itor. Governors and legislators ap- point most of the members. Then they are underfunded to keep them from hiring investiga- tors. North Dakota is one of the nine states without an ethics en- forcement agency. The closest mechanism we have is a statute that permits citizens to petituion for a grand jury investigation. The Legislature is now writing new legislation to prevent citizens' grand juries from being used in the future. Not only do we lack the statutes and regulations to force public dis- closure of political financing, lob- bying, and conflicts of interest but we have an elementary idea of modem strategies being used to in- fluence policy. It is no longer enough to have a legislative rule against accepting a cup of coffee from a lobbyist. Since the failure of ethics com- missions in other states can be at- tributed to the politicians, it would be necessary to have some sort cf commission in the state constitu- tion, structured in such a way that it would be outside the reach of politicians. But it is not in the interest of politicians to create such an enti- ty. Consequently, an ethics com- mission would have to be initiat- ed by the people as a constitutional amendment. But such a grass rootsmovement usually don't happen until a major scandal oc- curs. Outside investigators have es- tablished that North 'Dakota is vulnerable to corruption. As Jef- ferson once said: "The hole and the patch should be commensurate." So far, all We have is the hole. Progress and speed in the 63rd Thomas Jefferson reportedly said: "Never put offtomorrow what you can do today." Benjamin.Franklin was also credite_d with saying: "Don't put off until tomorrow what you can do to- day." Maybe both were stressing the importance of being earnest- of get- ting things done - only using slight= ly different words. Whatever, there has long been a tendency or temptation to address the easiest tasks first. An accusation has been made in' the past concern- ing the North Dakota Legislature leaving the heavy lifting until the end of its everyZtwo-year session. The same suggestion is on the table now about the 63rd Legislative Assembly - and there could be some ;ustifiable evidence, depend- ing upon individual perspective. As of late Friday afternoon (April 5), Gov. Jack Dalrymple had signed 91 House bills and !16 from the Senate for a total of 207 laws-to-be. That seems a decent total, but maybe not so much ifcomp .at'ed to the 919 bills and resolutions filed in the session. Friday was the 61st day of the up- to-80-day session and legislators would likely suggest the body of work is on track and will finish on time  or even a few days early. That might very well be true, but the More than 20 House and Senate committee chairs were sent the fol- lowing e-mail on April 1 : " ... As the 63rd Legislati,be Assembly be- gins to wind down Id like to write a column about the House (and Sen- ate) committees' accomplishments, and possible disappointments, from the perspective of the chair. I would heavy lifting question still remains, appreciate it if you would list the top Would a swifter pace have meant a , two accomplishments and at least session that might have been com- pleted in, say, 65 days? And would that have hurt efforts to lengthen the 80-day session? While some "big" bills have al- ready passed through the process to the pleasure or anger of citizens, many remain to be resolved and will create varying degrees of pro-con re- action, depending upon the timing of action. No one, in or out of the legisla- ture, wants to sacrifice quality by emphasizing speed. Nor is it ad- visable to go home early "just be- cause." Critical analysis and on- point discussion is beneficial in such forums of importance, But are North Dakota citizens getting the most cost- and time-effective efforts, from its elected mouthpieces? Are they focused on the gi'eatest needs of the people? Interesting questions to ponder and the public can better judge the answers when-if they are provided updates from the assembly. Com- mittee chairs had an opportunity last week when they were asked to share at least two accomplishments - and possibly one disappointment - thus far in thei committee work; an opportunity, if you will, for a time of reflection and to share commit- tee actions and progress. one disappointment from the com- mittee you chair. I.realize there is work still going on, but I'd appreciate your responses on or before Wednesday (April 3) of actions through the date.you respond .... Your e-mail comments can be brief and summarized, but feel free to pro- vide needed details. Thanks and I wish you all the best." The request seemed simple an d reasonable: Share a couple of ac- complishments, and possibly a dis- appointment, thus far in committee work. It's understandable that leg- islators are busy people, but it seemed they might want an opp0r- tunity to interact with citizens, es- pecially since it would only take about a five-rfiinute tinge investment. Nancy Johnson, R-37, Dickin- son, House Political Subdivisions Committee chair, was the only one to respond "specifically" to the re- quested information and she was thoughtful in her communication. "I think one of this session's ac- complishments is the cleaning up of petition laws," Johnsoa wrote. "This would be petitions for initiated measures, referendums, recalls and other election petitions. HB 1397 clarifies that it is illegal to sign an- other's name to a petition and pro- vides for a penalty to any individ- ual or organization that engages in fraudulent activity. The intent of the bill is to ensure the integrity of the election process for our citizens. "We had a couple of bills that fo- cused (but not exclusively) on the western part of our state," she con- tinued. "SB 2308 will regulate sep- tic service systems and the dispos- al of the sewage in them to protect the land and the safety of our state's water. The other is a study resolu- tion (HCR 3001) to look at crew camps, group housing, safety, health, law enforcement and infrastruc- ture needs .... Perhaps my biggest disappointment comes from bills that my committee recommended as a 'do not pass' that failed on the floor and then get added into other bills." Only three others took the time to offer a non-specific and brief re- sponse: Sen. Judy Lee, R- 134, West Far- go: "We are a long way from the fin- ish line, so I am not eager to list good or bad outcomes, because little is set- tled yet. The usual back-and-forth between the Senate & House is go- ing on now, so stay tuned!" Sen. Dwight Cook, R-34, Man- dan: "'Hate to avoid your question lbut everything important to my tax committee is still in play To what degree I go home happy or disap- pointed is yet to be decided." Sen. Tim Flakoll, R-44, Fargo: "It will be a couple of weeks before we have things firmed up." John lrhy decided to retire earl)' in late 2011 .as editor of the Bismarck Tribune. He is now a .[reehmce writer, private investigator and man- agement conmdtant, tie can he reached atjohn- robertirhv(a)hotmail.com. ' Extension Exchange Waiting for a Tax Refund? Whether your tax refund is $500 or $3500, it can mean a real impact on your personal and fi- nancial well-being. Take the time to think things over before you spend your refund on a fiat-screen TV or an iPad, try to think through your options, even the ones that aren't especially exciting or glam- orous. Before you receive your tax re- fund this year, make a plan for how you will spend it. Without a plan, you may spend it on the first important thing that comes to mind, then realize something else was more important. Involve the whole family to consider all the possibilities ad decide which are most important. Here are some smart uses for your refund: Pay offbilts that you have got- ten behind on. Prioritize them by paying offthe ones with the high- est interest rates. Save for needs in the coming year by putting away funds into an emergency fund to cover a couple months of unexpected expenses like medical or car repairs. Save for goals such as a dream vacation, home or retirement. Even small amounts add up. Put- ting $500 a year into an IRA can yield $68,100 after 30 years. Devote a portion of your tax refund to build long-term financial security. Maybe you find yourself in a yearly cycle of receiving a tax re- fund each spring, catching up and then getting more and more behind throughotlt the year until the next tax season. Consider puttingmore in your paycheck by changing. your withholding (form W-4) and claiming more exemptions. If you qualify for the Earned In- come Tax Credit, you can request to receive part of it throughout the year (request form W-5 from your employer). Making good use of your tax refund feels great and can start you on the road to financial well-being. Once you've taken care of the ba- sics then you can consider that new refrigerator, sofa or TV. Dates to Remember: April 10 Pesticide Training Registration 8:30 A.M. Extension on Ag around the state ND sees very+ big increase in land values North Dakota cropland values in- creased by about 42 percent during 2012, according to Andrew Swen- son, North Dakota State Universi- ty Extension Service farm man- agement specialist. His estimate is derived from the published results fa January 2013 county-level survey commissioned by the North Dakota Department of Trust Lands. The 42 percent increase is similar to the 46 percent in- crease rellprted by the North Dako- ta Chapter of the American Socie- ty of Farm Managers and Rural Ap- praisers. "The question is whether this huge increase has capped a 10-year rise in land values, which has been the largest in the past 100 years, even exceeding what occurred from 1973 to 1981," Swenson siys. "North Dakota cropland values are now the highest ever, even when ad- justing for inflation." The drivers that have pushed land values have been well-documente,d. Grain prices fiom 2007 to the pres- ent have been much higher than any year prior to 2007. Also, yields gen- erally have been strong. For exam- ple, the three highest wheat yields ever have occurred within the past four years. This combination has provided several years of strong profit for crop producers, which has fueled their financial ability and de- sire to buy land. Swenson believes 2012 was the apex in North Dakota crop pro- duction profit because stored soil moisture provided much better yields than expected, At the same time, prices soared due to a drought in the Corn Belt. A factor that has been just as im- portant in driving land values has been low interest rates. Interest rates to finance land purchases are attractive, while returns and confi- dence on alternative investments have been weak. Ten years ago, an acceptable return on land investment (cash rent minus real estate taxes divided by land value) was about 6 percent. Now it is about 3 percent. If buyers insisted on a return of just one per- centage point more, to 4 percent, land "alues would have to drop by one-fourth, assuming constant cash rents and real estate taxes. If a general rise in interest rates occurs, being able to cash flow land purchases with debt capital be- comes more difficult. Also, certain fixed-return investments may be- come more attractive relative to in- vesting in land. "This perfect storm of high crop prices and yields and low interest rates driving land values higher will not continue indefinitely," Swenson says. "In fact, there are strong .indications that 2013 crop prices will be significantly lower than in 2012. In addition, govern- ment subsidies for agriculture are expected to diminish, if not in 2013, then most certainly in 2014." For example, direct payments av- erage about $10 per cropland acre in North Dakota. If they are elimi- nated, the eventual impact on av- erage land values could be a re- duction of $200 to $300 per acre. However, Swenson does not ex- pect an immediate sharp drop in land values, even if crop prices, yields and/or interest rates turn somewhat less favorable. "Obviously there has been very strong interest in land," Swenson says. "Many producers and in- vestors have the financial where- withal to bid on land, which will tend tO underpin land values. After the strong increase in land prices, any softening could be seen as a buying opportunity." The largest increase in cropland values (January 2012 to January 2013) was about 60 percent in the east-central region (to $2,295 per acre) and the northeastern region (to $1,990), followed by increases of 56 percent (to $3,427) in the northern Red River Valley and 47 percent in the north- central region (to $1,517). There was a 30 to 40 percent in- crease for the northwestern region (to $867), south-centrAl (to $1,343), southern Red River Valley (to $4,180) and southeastern region (to $2,925). The smallest increase per acre, about 23 percent, oc- curred in the southwestem region (to $1,001). "The survey indicates that land rents, as tylical, did not change as much in percentage as land values," Swenson says. "On average, crop- land rents increased about 12 per- cent, which was a very strong in- crease from a historical perspective." The largest increases in land rent, nearly 19 percent, occurred in the south-central region (to $56 per acre) and the northern Red River Valley region (to $90.90). The average rent increased 17 percent (to $65.50 per acre) in the east-central region. Cropland rents increased about 15 percent in the northeastern region (to $54.40) and the south- eastern region (to $92.20) and in- creased 1.4 percent in the southern Red River Valley (to $114.70). The smallest increase ia land rent rates, 4 to 5 percent, occurred in the northwestern region (to $34.90), north-central region (to $48.10) and southwestern region (to $36.20). Swenson cautions that the values and rents are averages for large mul- ticounty regions. Prices can vary considerably within a region be- cause of soil types, drainage and lo- cation. Editor's Note The Around the County columlm was not available this week. It will return as soon as possible.