Public Lands Council Announces 50th Anniversary Celebration 

The nation’s voice for western public lands ranchers will commemorate its 50thanniversary this fall in Park City, Utah during the Public Lands Council (PLC) Annual Meeting, September 27-29, 2018. The meeting, held at the Grand Summit Resort, will bring together cattle and sheep producers, industry partners, government officials, and lawmakers to reflect on the past five decades of the PLC and the strong future ahead for the public lands ranching industry.  

“Our annual meeting is always special, but this celebration will allow us to reflect on the tremendous impact of public lands ranching and to recognize the men and women who helped us achieve some of our key milestones,” said Dave Eliason, PLC President, and Utah public lands rancher. “It is also about coming together with our neighbors and friends and looking forward to the promising future of our industry.”

 In addition to the informative speakers, issues discussions, and policy-making that occurs at every PLC meeting, this year’s celebration will include a special Welcome barbeque, receptions, historical retrospectives, and a 50thAnniversary Banquet at the Red Pine Lodge perched high above the Canyons Village on the ski slopes. Invited guests include leadership of all federal land management agencies, leading scholars from the best land-grant universities around the west, and PLC leaders and alumni from throughout the years.  The $250 full-registration includes all conference events and meals. Discounted family registrations and one-day registrations are available.

To learn more about PLC’s 50th anniversary and to register for the PLC Annual Meeting visit

Cattlewomen to host second “Urban Meets Rural” tour June 23

The Fallon Creek Cattlewomen of the Ismay, Mont., area invite their urban friends and neighbors to an afternoon in the country full of ranch tours, activities and a beef barbecue on Saturday, June 23.

Hosted on the Griffin Ranch 40 miles east of Miles City, the activities will start at 2 p.m. with wagon tours to learn about the cattle and farming operations of the Griffin family. Following the tour will be games and activities for the entire family. Wrapping up the day is a steak fry and full-course meal.

The entire “Urban Meets Rural” tour is offered free of charge to those interested in learning more about how ranchers raise healthy, sustainable beef and care for the land. Registration and additional details are available through by searching for “Urban Meets Rural.” Allow approximately an hour travel time to the ranch from Miles City. The route includes 31 miles of paved highway and nine miles of gravel county road. In the event of rain, the event will be canceled.

Attendees are asked to register by June 20. For more information call or text Pam Griffin at 406.951.1006, or email her at

Producers Reminded to get Coverage Through State Hail Insurance Program

With hailstorms picking up throughout the state, the Montana Department of Agriculture (MDA) is reminding producers to get covered through the State Hail Insurance Program. Montana producers can conveniently access and fill out applications for state hail insurance online by going to

Producers can insure crops against hail damage at the maximum coverage rate of $75 per acre for dryland and $114 per acre for irrigated land. Rates charged are a percentage of the insured amount and vary by county. A detailed list of rates by county and crop can be found on the program’s website.

Completed forms can be emailed, mailed or faxed to the department or used as a reference when you contact the office by phone.

Rapid snowmelt causes record-breaking streamflows across the state of Montana during May

On May 11, 2018, the Clark Fork River above Missoula reached 33,250 cubic feet per second (cfs), the highest flow recorded since the river reached 48,000 cfs on June 1, 1908. This year’s peak flow was driven almost purely by the rapid snowmelt from the abundant and anomalous snowpack across the basin, unlike other big peak years (1964 and 1975) when there was a significant rain event in addition to already occurring snowmelt.

“This year will stand out in history as one of the biggest years on record for purely snowmelt-driven flows in rivers across the state,” said Lucas Zukiewicz, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) water supply specialist for Montana. “The flows we experienced during May were a direct result of the well above normal to record-breaking snowpack in place before snowmelt began along with above average temperatures and abundant sunshine.”

While most rivers didn’t set new records for peak flows with regards to an instantaneous flow measurement (cfs), 52 stream gauges along rivers and streams set new records for May monthly flows, and 12 additional sites were the second highest on record. “Monthly flow refers to the total volume of water to move through the river during the month, and what we experienced during May was record-setting,” said Zukiewicz. Records at some stream gage locations go back 90 years. It wasn’t just in northwest Montana where new records were set. “Records for May flows span the entire state. Almost two-thirds of the gauges we forecast set new records, both east and west of the Divide,” said Zukiewicz.

The impacts of the rapid snowmelt may be felt later in the summer season. Ideally, the slow release of mountain snowpack provides long-duration flows in the rivers and streams across the state. This year, snowpack peaked well above normal in many basins, but once it peaked it came out at an accelerated rate. “Snowmelt rates this May were well above average throughout the month, and it took its toll on the snowpack,” said Zukiewicz.

Snowpack as of June 1 remains near to above normal at many high elevation snowpack monitoring locations, but most mid-elevations are below normal for this date, and low elevations have melted during the early half of May. “Based on the predominant weather patterns that we experienced this winter, cool and wet, this is not what we were expecting. It’s almost like we skipped spring altogether this year and went straight into summer. The snowpack is moving out quickly, and early, this year,” said Zukiewicz. Snowmelt-driven peak flows have likely occurred on many river basins across the state, but higher elevation driven river basins in south-central Montana could still see additional peaks.

As of this date, many reservoirs are full or are reaching capacity from the abundant runoff, which will help to sustain flows in many river basins later this summer. Summer streamflow forecasts issued by the USDA-NRCS Montana Snow Survey generally remain near to above average for the June 1 – September 30 period, but summer precipitation, especially in June, will play a critical role in determining the long-term water supply.

Monthly Water Supply Outlook Reports can be found at this website after the 5th business day of the month:

Carbon Conservation District to Host Montana Range Days

The Carbon Conservation District, along with the local and state Montana Range Days planning committee, is hosting the annual Montana Range Days event at the Fairgrounds in Red Lodge, Mont., June 18-20, 2018.

Montana Range Days began in 1976 in Jordan, Mont., and has continued throughout the years to provide an educational format to youth ages 4-19, as well as adults of all ages, to have an on-the-ground, hands-on learning experience.  Rangeland professionals and landowners alike learn new and innovative ways of managing natural resources in Montana. Rangeland is the largest of those natural resources with rangelands, grazable pasture and forestlands covering 70 percent of the state.

“We are ready for our second year as host of Montana Range Days. It is a great opportunity to educate folks about Montana’s largest natural resource, rangelands.  It also provides us a chance to showcase the Red Lodge area,” said Scott Blain, chairman for the local planning committee.

Estimating an average of 300 participants each year, this event has reached more than 10,000 people.  The value of the increased knowledge and awareness of rangelands in Montana cannot be overstated, Blain said.  “Montana Range Days is the premier rangeland educational event in Montana.  Montana Range Days plays a critical role in educating, training, and inspiring future natural resource managers,” said Blain.

Registration is available online at through June 9. After June 9, registration will be on site, at the fairgrounds, in Red Lodge, Mont. Registration for individuals costs $50.00 before June 9 and $60.00 after June 9. For families (up to 4 members), the cost is $100.00 before June 9 and $125.00 after June 9.

If you have any questions or require special accommodations, please contact Darlene Schwend at (406) 962-3641 ext.105 or email at

MSGA to host agency officials at MidYear Meeting

The Montana Stockgrowers Association will be hosting their annual MidYear Meeting in Dillon, MT June 14-15. A highlight of this year’s event will be the two Agricultural issues briefings held on June 15 at 9:30 am and 2:30 pm at the Beaverhead County Fairgrounds.

“This is a great opportunity to engage with high ranking officials at this historic event,” said Bryan Mussard MSGA President. “Everything from natural resources to trade to environmental regulation will be discussed during these briefings. You won’t want to miss the high caliber of speakers that will be on hand to answer your questions.”

Confirmed speakers include U.S. Senator Steve Daines; Allen Rowley, U.S. Forest Service Director of Forest Management; Brian Steed U.S. Bureau of Land Management Deputy Director, Programs & Policy; Langston D. Hull, DVM, PhD USDA APHIS Director – Cattle Health Center; Alan Mikkelsen BBureauof Reclamation Senior Advisor to the Secretary, Water and Western Resource Issues. Other invitees include USTR’s Chief Agricultural Negotiator, Gregg Doud and Senior advisors to the Environmental Protection Agency Administrator.

Friday, June 15 also includes a parade through the streets of Dillon starting at 11:00 am and a concert that evening headlined by Nashville based band Saints and Angels, they will be joined by Brian Bonds, original guitarist for Florida Georgia Line.

To learn more about the event, visit

FMCSA Announces Clarifying Regulatory Guidance for Transportation of Agricultural Commodities, Personal Conveyance

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) today announced new regulatory guidance clarifying the longstanding 150 air-miles hours-of-service agricultural commodity exemption as well as providing additional explanatory detail of the “personal conveyance” provision.

“Due to input from commercial vehicle stakeholders and the public, the Department has taken steps to provide greater clarity and flexibility regarding the intent and effect of these regulations, for the agricultural and other sectors,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao.

FMCSA published Federal Register notices proposing regulatory guidance for the transportation of agricultural commodities and the use of personal conveyance in December, 2017 and requested public comment. FMCSA is providing clarity on the use of the agricultural exemption and personal conveyance to both industry and law enforcement along with providing as much flexibility as possible for the industry, while maintaining safety.

“We are dedicated to finding effective solutions to challenges, exploring new opportunities for innovation and constantly seeking ways to improve,” said FMCSA Administrator Raymond P. Martinez.

In all, nearly 850 public comments were submitted to the Federal Register dockets on the proposed guidance pertaining to the transportation of agricultural commodities as well as on the personal conveyance provision.

The new regulatory guidance is developed within a clear, questions-and-answers format and explains the 150 air-mile radius agricultural commodity exemption and how the “source” of the commodity is determined.  For a copy of this guidance, see:

Likewise, the new regulatory guidance outlines – and includes numerous examples – under what circumstances a commercial motor vehicle driver may operate the truck or bus for personal conveyance.  For a copy of this guidance, see:


USDA Resumes Continuous Conservation Reserve Program Enrollment

One-Year Extension Available to Holders of Many Expiring Contracts through Continuous Signup

As part of a 33-year effort to protect sensitive lands and improve water quality and wildlife habitat on private lands, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will resume accepting applications for the voluntary Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). Eligible farmers, ranchers, and private landowners can sign up at their local Farm Service Agency (FSA)office between June 4 and Aug. 17, 2018.

“The Conservation Reserve Program is an important component of the suite of voluntary conservation programs USDA makes available to agricultural producers, benefiting both the land and wildlife. On the road, I often hear firsthand how popular CRP is for our recreational sector; hunters, fishermen, conservationists and bird watchers,” U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said. “CRP also is a powerful tool to encourage agricultural producers to set aside unproductive, marginal lands that should not be farmed to reduce soil erosion, improve water quality, provide habitat for wildlife and boost soil health.”

FSA stopped accepting applications last fall for the CRP continuous signup (excluding applications for the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) and CRP grasslands). This pause allowed USDA to review available acres and avoid exceeding the 24 million-acre CRP cap set by the 2014 Farm Bill. New limited practice availability and short sign up period helps ensure that landowners with the most sensitive acreage will enroll in the program and avoid unintended competition with new and beginning farmers seeking leases. CRP enrollment currently is about 22.7 million acres.

2018 Signup for CRP

For this year’s signup, limited priority practices are available for continuous enrollment. They include grassed waterways, filter strips, riparian buffers, wetland restoration and others. To view a full list of practices, please visit the CRP Continuous Enrollment Period page.

FSA will use updated soil rental rates to make annual rental payments, reflecting current values. It will not offer incentive payments as part of the new signup.

USDA will not open a general signup this year, however, a one-year extension will be offered to existing CRP participants with expiring CRP contracts of 14 years or less. Producers eligible for an extension will receive a letter with more information.

CRP Grasslands

Additionally, FSA established new ranking criteria for CRP Grasslands. To guarantee all CRP grasslands offers are treated equally, applicants who previously applied will be asked to reapply using the new ranking criteria. Producers with pending applications will receive a letter providing the options.

About CRP

In return for enrolling land in CRP, USDA, through FSA on behalf of the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC), provides participants with annual rental payments and cost-share assistance. Landowners enter into contracts that last between 10 and 15 years. CRP pays producers who remove sensitive lands from production and plant certain grasses, shrubs and trees that improve water quality, prevent soil erosion and increase wildlife habitat.

Signed into law by President Reagan in 1985, CRP is one of the largest private-lands conservation programs in the United States. Thanks to voluntary participation by farmers, ranchers and private landowners, CRP has improved water quality, reduced soil erosion and increased habitat for endangered and threatened species.

The new changes to CRP do not impact the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, a related program offered by CCC and state partners.

Producers wanting to apply for the CRP continuous signup or CRP grasslands should contact their USDA service center. To locate your local FSA office, visit More information on CRP can be found at

MSGA Applauds Introduction of Legislation Addressing Hours of Service Changes for Livestock Haulers

The Montana Stockgrowers Association applauded the introduction of the Transporting Livestock Across America Safely (TLAAS) Act, noting this legislation would ensure animal welfare and the safety of livestock haulers. The bill was introduced last week by U.S. Sens. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Jerry Moran of Kansas, John Hoeven of North Dakota, Jon Tester of Montana, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Marco Rubio of Florida, Tina Smith of Minnesota, Pat Roberts of Kansas, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Doug Jones of Alabama. Following the introduction, U.S. Sen. Steve Daines has also signed on as a cosponsor.

“We would like to thank Sens. Tester and Daines for cosponsoring this common-sense piece of legislation. The current Hours of Service rules for livestock haulers present serious challenges for our industry and jeopardize the health and well-being of livestock,” said Bryan Mussard President of the Montana Stockgrowers Association. “This has been a priority of the Association and an issue we have worked on relentlessly.”

Starting Oct. 1, Livestock haulers are scheduled to have to start using Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) to track their driving times and distances. Under current rules, they would be required to turn on their ELDs after crossing out of the 150-air-mile radius from their loading point, after which they can only drive for 11 hours before taking a mandatory 10-hour break. This 11-hour drive time with mandatory 10-hour rest would mean cattle from Montana would not make it to destinations in Nebraska and Kansas without having a mandatory rest period, this puts the animals at risk.

The TLAAS Act takes into full consideration the fact that there are living and breathing animals on the trailer that must be kept moving, and that they must get to their destination as quickly and as safely as possible.  This bill provides for more drive time for livestock haulers, as well as granting the flexibility for drivers to rest at any point during the trip without the break counting against HOS time. This bill also allows for another 150-air-mile exemption on the back end of a livestock haul to account for the wait time that occurs when unloading live animals.

MSGA met with the U.S. Department of Transportation last year to raise concerns about the effect the ELDs and the Hours of Service will have on animal husbandry. MSGA will continue to follow this legislation as it moves through the process and will work with Montana’s congressional delegation to pass this critical piece of legislation.


The Montana Stockgrowers Association, a non-profit organization representing nearly 2,500 members, strives to serve, protect and advance the economic, political, environmental and cultural interests of cattle producers, the largest sector of Montana’s number one industry – agriculture.


Tester Works Across the Aisle to Strengthen Montana’s #1 Industry, Protect Clean Water

U.S. Senator Jon Tester today worked across the aisle to strengthen Montana’s #1 industry and protect clean water for rural communities.

Tester used his position as a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee to include funding for important Montana initiatives in two recent bipartisan laws.  During a committee meeting, Tester voted in favor of both the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Bill and the Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Bill, sending them to the Senate floor for a final vote.

“Both of these priorities reflect the infrastructure, agriculture, and business needs of Montana,” Tester said.  “When we invest in our farmers and our infrastructure, we see big returns to Montana’s economy.  This is further proof that when Republicans and Democrats work together, good things get done.”


The Senate Agriculture Appropriations Bill contains the following Montana provisions:

·         $3.7 million to keep the Fort Keogh Research Lab in Miles City from closing.

·         $5.6 million for the Northern Plains Research Lab in Sidney to continue its Wheat and Barley Scab Initiative.

·         $1.5 billion to keep Farm Service Agency open in farming and ranching communities.

·         $558.1 million for the USDA Rural Development Water and Wastewater Disposal loan and grant program.

·         $127.2 million for Wildlife Services to help manage and compensate producers for conflicts between natural predators and livestock.

·         $243.7 million to support State Agricultural Experiment Stations that do agricultural research.

·         $300 million for Smith-Level and Cooperative Extension, which connects land-grant institution educations and local agriculture professionals to provide expertise to farmers and consumers.

·         $425 million for a broadband pilot program aimed at improving high-speed internet services to rural America.

Tester also included important report language in the Agriculture Appropriations Bill urging the U.S. Agriculture Secretary to work with the Canadian government to resolve the unfair wheat grading practices in Canada that unfairly target Montana grain producers, as well as report language pushing the Appropriations Committee to invest more resources to expand access to high-speed internet in rural areas.


The Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Bill contains the following Montana provisions:

·         $10 million for the Blackfeet Water Compact.

·         $12 million for the Crow Water Compact.

·         $4.7 million for the Fort Peck and Dry Prairie Rural Water Project.

·         $3.9 million for the Rocky Boy’s and Northcentral Montana Rural Water Project.

·         $6 million for watercraft inspection stations in the Columbia River Basin.

·         $4.8 million for the Missouri River Recovery Program.

·         $1.9 million for the Milk River Project, including St. Mary’s Diversion Dam.

·         $2.6 million for the Libby Dam.

As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Tester is responsible for writing the 12 government bills that fund the federal government.

Source: Senator Jon Tester