BILLS, BILLS, BILLS: Montana Stockgrowers Legislative update for March
March 18, 2015
As Montana ranchers move into early spring, temperatures for most of the state have been well above average for a few weeks. Moisture and snowpack levels are below average to average for many mountain ranges, but that hasn't slowed legislative activity in Helena.
Agricultural organizations from across the state joined on March 18, to help celebrate National Agriculture Day. This was a great opportunity for many legislators to meet farmers and ranchers from their districts and to show appreciation for the state's largest industry. The event was marked by a special luncheon, serving Montana food products, and an address from Governor Steve Bullock. Montana Stockgrowers Association (MSGA) was proud to be a part of the occasion as our officer team and members of the Board of Directors attended.
As February ended, the 64th Montana Legislative Session met its halfway mark. During the last week of the month, a large volume of activity took place in Helena so that bills could pass their first house vote prior to the Session's transmittal deadline. MSGA continues monitoring bill activity on behalf of its members, ranchers and landowners throughout the Session.
Bills focusing on Sage Grouse and CSKT have dominated discussions during the session. Senate Bill 261, Montana Greater Sage Grouse Stewardship Act sponsored by Sen. Bradley Hamlett of Cascade, establishes oversight for Montana's sage grouse conservation programs that have included support of agriculture and natural resource industries in the state.
Senate Bill 262, sponsored by Sen. Chas Vincent of Libby, ratifies the Montana water compact with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. Both bills are supported by MSGA and passed the Senate during the last week of February and will be discussed during House Committees during the month of March.
MSGA has supported several other successful bills during the first half of the Legislative Session, three of which have already been signed into law by Governor Steve Bullock:
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1. House Bill 108, sponsored by Rep. Daniel Salomon of Ronan, revises noxious weed budget laws to limit administrative expenses for the management programs;
2. Senate Bill 19, sponsored by Sen. Rick Ripley of Wolf Creek, revises livestock special deputy fund laws to provide local funding from per capita fees;
3. Senate Bill 62, sponsored by Sen. Taylor Brown of Huntley, revises the reporting dates for per capita livestock fees, moving the reporting date from February 1 to March 1.
The Department of Livestock budget hearings will continue during the session. MSGA wants to ensure funding remains in place for DOL programs servicing the state's Ranchers. This includes support for the Designated Surveillance Area as part of the brucellosis management program in Southwestern Montana. Several other bills related to private property rights, hunting, public lands and water rights are also moving forward during the session.
On March 24-26, leadership and members of MSGA will travel to Washington D.C. to take part in the Legislative Conference hosted by National Cattlemen's Beef Association and Public Lands Council. While there, attendees will meet with Montana's congressional delegates to discuss important issues affecting Montana's ranching communities. Priority topics include brucellosis, sage grouse, Dietary Guidelines, Waters of the U.S. and Trade Promotion Authority.
MSGA continues to work with several Montana organizations as part of the state's Agriculture Coalition, and with legislators who are part of the Agriculture Caucus, on bills impacting the ranching community.
Montana Stockgrowers provides weekly podcast updates during the legislative session and members have access exclusive information via the MSGA website, mtbeef.org. F
–Montana Stockgrowers Association