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Lawmakers consider changing makeup of land and mineral board

February 5, 2021 GMT

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Supporters of a change in the makeup of the state board that oversees land and minerals in North Dakota want an agricultural commissioner on the panel.

Lawmakers are considering several pieces of legislation that would remove the state treasurer from the Board of University and School Lands and replace the seat with an agricultural representative.

The board currently includes the governor, attorney general, secretary of state, state superintendent and state treasurer. The proposal comes after ranchers became frustrated with leasing auctions that moved online because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Bismarck Tribune reported.

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Some ranchers seeking to lease state land either didn’t have internet access or were confused about how the online process worked, said Republican Rep. Jim Schmidt.

“Prior to this, they were done at the county courthouse eyeball to eyeball,” Schmidt said. “That is almost a ritual.”

He said the ranchers weren’t happy that the switch to online auctions was made with no agricultural voice on the board.

The five board members are listed in the North Dakota Constitution, so a change would require a constitutional amendment, something lawmakers are considering forwarding to voters.