With a session that has been overwhelmed with budget shortfalls and organizations scrambling to hold onto what they have, several new agricultural oriented bills have made their way through committees.
First, is the Grain Warehouse Task Force Bill (HB 1324) relating to the regulation of grain warehouse operators. This bill, introduced in the House Ag Committee, will raise the bonding rate on elevators from six cents a bushel to 10 cents a bushel, among other things, and will grant TDA more oversight in relation to auditing their books.
In particular, with passage of the bill, TDA will be able to balance the relation of grain stored with the amounts that are posted on daily position reports and then be able to balance that against financial statements. Prior to this bill TDA was not capable of that level of monitoring. In essence, the bill will allow TDA more latitude in catching insolvent elevators prior to a financial collapse, whereas before, elevators were able to "string" producers out on grain payments in some cases as much as three years.
Of equal importance but on a different level is the right to water. SB 332 (Duncan and Fraser) attempts to more clearly define who owns the water beneath the land. This bill gives a more vested right to landowners while leaving groundwater districts with the right to dispense the available amount of water in the area. In effect, this bill will give land owners "fair chance" to pump the water below them and protect them in the event of malicious use by neighbors.
Lastly, a bill will be introduced into committee next week that would give grain producers the opportunity to vote on an indemnity fund. This fund, which would be collected on every bushel of grain produced in the state, would provide a fund for growers to tap into in the event of an elevator failure.