Your Boots on the Hill: Tax Credits and Grizzly Bear Update, National Ag Week on the Hill, ACE Visits Helena and MFBF Member Karli Johnson Testifes to Congress
By Rachel Cone and Nicole Rolf, Montana Farm Bureau Federation
The 2023 Montana Legislative Session is picking up momentum as we wrap up week 11 here in Helena. Along with advocating on over a dozen bills, we celebrated National Ag Week here in Helena and had the opportunity to teach the 2023 ACE participants about the Montana Legislature. Here is what we worked on this week:
The 2021 Legislature provided incentives for employers to invest in their employees through the Montana Trades, Education and Training Tax Credit (M-TEC). This tax credit covers 50% of education and training expenses for an employer of an eligible trade and can be used for tuition, fees, books, supplies and equipment. HB 245 Revise tax credit for trades education and training sponsored by Sue Vinton (R) HD 56 builds on the success of M-TEC by expanding to more trades such as agricultural, mining, food manufacturing and several other trades. We believe this expansion of the eligible trade professions is critical for Montana agriculture by providing farms and ranchers a great incentive to provide training and education to agricultural workers.
We also supported SJ 14 Resolution opposing bison introduction at Charles M. Russell Wildlife Refuge sponsored by Mike Lang (R) SD 17 which would state the Montana Legislature’s opposition to bison being introduced to the Charles M. Russell Wildlife Refuge (CMR). The CMR spans nearly 1 million acres in land from six Montana counties and is surrounded by private property, BLM land and state land trust. Introduction of bison to the CMR is risky without a detailed plan and would have a direct impact on CMR’s rangeland and would increase the risk of transmission of disease between bison, wildlife and livestock. We also advocated for HJ 11 Joint resolution relating to Environmental, Social, and Governmental regulation sponsored by Steve Gist (R) HD 25 to urge Congress to push back on environmental social governance (ESG) polices for credit scores. ESGs provide a framework for stakeholders to understand how an organization is managing risks related to environmental, social and governance factors. Using non-financial factors such as ESGs, which have no domestic or global standard, to evaluate investment opportunities can have a negative impact on our free-market system due to their subjective nature and can vary in every situation. All of these bills were heard in their second chamber this week.
Along with our lobbying this week we celebrated National Ag Week on the Hill. We kicked off the celebrations with a value-added ag tour of the Missouri River Brewing Co. with Governor Gianforte and the Department of Agriculture staff. On Tuesday for National Ag Day, we set up a booth in the halls of the capitol to share the story of Montana’s farmers and ranchers with the public. We also participated in a “Ag Round Table” with Governor Gianforte and other agricultural organizations to discuss agricultural policy in the legislative session. We wrapped up National Ag Week with the 2023 ACE class teaching them about the Montana Legislature and the legislative process. The ACE participants also had the opportunity to meet with several Montana legislators, agency officials and also met with Governor Gianforte during their time in Helena.
Lastly for this week Front Range County Farm Bureau member and Choteau rancher, Karli Johnson, traveled to Washington, D.C. this week to testify before the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources. Karli testified in regard to HR. 1419 to direct the Secretary of the Interior to issue a new rule removing the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem population of grizzly bears from the Federal list of endangered and threatened wildlife sponsored by Rep. Matt Rosendale (R). In her written testimony, the owner of Sevens Livestock explained how their ranch has had to change their livestock management strategies including changing to flood irrigation, changing their heifer calving date, not raising sheep, erecting a Grizzly Bear fence at more than $6,000 out-of-pocket and being extremely cautious when spraying noxious weeds and fixing fence. You can read more about Karli’s testimony here.
For more legislative updates and details on these issues, follow our Live with Your Lobbyist broadcast each Friday at noon on our Montana Farm Bureau Facebook Page.
Nicole Rolf is the Senior Director of Governmental Affairs and a rancher from Miles City, Montana. Nicole works closely with our Congressional delegation on national issues affecting Montana agriculture. Additionally, this is her eighth Montana Legislative Session, lobbying in Helena on behalf of MFBF members. She also works as the Southeastern Montana Regional Manager. Nicole can be contacted at email@example.com.
Rachel Cone is the Director of State Governmental Affairs for Montana Farm Bureau Federation. This is Rachel’s second session lobbying on behalf of Montana Farm Bureau. Rachel is involved throughout the interim session to track how bills will come to the session. Rachel focuses on water issues throughout the legislative session and lobbies on all topics impacting Montana Farm Bureau members. Rachel can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
-Montana Farm Bureau Federation