Montana hires new livestock director
Meet the new Montana Board of Livestock Executive Director, Mike Honeycutt. Currently serving as the Managing Director for the National Council for Agricultural Education, Honeycutt will begin work in his new position Feb. 1. He agreed to answer a few questions for Tri-State Livestock News.
1. Why did you seek this position with the MBOL?
I was looking for an opportunity to work in public service and stay connected to the agriculture industry. This position fit those personal needs I was seeking in my next career move. Once I was a candidate for the position I began to learn of the challenges facing the department. I feel that this department serves an important mission for the state and the livestock industry and that this position is critical to rebuilding confidence in the department and the work it is carrying out. I am excited to work through those challenges as great as they may be.
2. What experience do you have with fiscal management?
I have managed budgets in every position that I have held. I am very familiar with working through budgets that are complicated and have funds that are earmarked or dedicated to specific programs and functions. In most cases these funds were derived from fundraising activities so there were requirements on how revenues and expenses needed to be recorded as well as reporting requirements back to donors. This experience has led me to believe that you have to be as transparent and accurate in your accounting as possible. I am aware this has been a concern with the department and I am committed to working on those issues and making sure the department follows the letter and spirit of rules governing the budgeting process.
3. What are your goals for the MBOL?
It is hard to be specific with goals that I may have until I have had an opportunity to get inside the department and have more internal and external conversations. At this point I would say the chief goal I could express is making moves that helps the department regain trust and confidence with the public. I know this is not going to be easy but we will need to be open to feedback no matter how blunt it may be and show that we are willing to act on that feedback.
4. How will you connect with the producers in Montana?
I want to be open and approachable with the producers. They are the reason the department exists. I hope to get out to meetings that allow me to interact directly with producers and listen to what they have to say. I also know that one of the first things I should do is reach out the stakeholder organizations around the state and have direct meetings with their leaders. I hope that we will have an environment that allows producers to be a valued part of solving the problems facing the department.
5. What is your opinion on the governor’s recent announcement that Park bison will be allowed to live outside of the Park?
At present I don’t know that I am confident I have all the information I would need to share a truly informed opinion. I do hope the decision was made based on sound science and that industry leaders had input. I know this is an area that is already under greater surveillance and monitoring by the department and that level engagement will continue. It would be our duty to act accordingly if we see changes in any animal health incidents that could be correlated to greater contact between wild bison and domestic livestock herds.
6. Do you think fees will have to increase, in order to balance the budget?
I have not had the opportunity to study the budget in level of detail but that is priority on day one. What I do feel comfortable saying is that when there are shortfalls that may push higher fees on those utilizing the department’s services we have to look at every angle before making that decision. We have to question if there are efficiencies the department could seek that would correct at least a portion of the shortfall before raising fees. We should also be projecting far enough in to the future to bring the affected industry’s leaders to the table to be part of the solution or make graduated changes to lessen the immediate impact of the changes.