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Wheat commission will stay appointed

PIERRE -- A House committee killed legislation Tuesday that called for election of the members of the South Dakota Wheat Commission.

Rep. Dennis Feickert, D-Aberdeen, was prime sponsor of the legislation, HB 1195.

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He said he doesn't see why anyone in a democracy would be against elections. He said he's not insinuating there are any problems with the wheat commission but the increase in the wheat fee that is moving through the Legislature makes transparency more important.

He said the corn council and soybean council have election processes that work.

But the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee voted 9-3 to defeat the bill.

"You can get all those dollars back," Rep. Charlie Hoffman, R-Eureka, said about the wheat fee that is used for promotion, marketing and research by the commission, whose members are appointed by the governor.

"It isn't a tax and it isn't a fee. It's a gift," Hoffman said. He is the committee's chairman.

Caren Assman, who's been executive director of South Dakota Wheat Inc. for the past year, said the recommendations for the wheat commission appointments have come from South Dakota Wheat since 1961.

She said two or more people typically were recommended for one vacancy and three or more if there were two slots open.

"To my knowledge the process has worked well for over 50 years," Assman said.

The wheat-fee increase, HB 1081, won House approval 65-4 and is awaiting a final vote in the Senate. Its prime sponsor is Rep. Lee Qualm, R-Platte, and it is supported by the wheat commission.