MFBF – Twenty young farmers and ranchers from across the state had the opportunity to sit in on hearings, have breakfast with legislators and meet with various state agencies during the Montana Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers (MFBF YF&R) and/Montana Young Stockgrower’s Calling on the Capitol Feb. 24-25 in Helena.
“The legislative breakfast provided a great opportunity to sit down and visit with your local legislator about any concerns,” noted Aaron Phipps, who sits on the MFBF YF&R Committee. He and his wife, Mollie, attended the event. “You really see how important agriculture is to Montana when you travel to Helena for the session. The legislators are very interested in what we have to say.”
The group met with the deputy director of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, with Montana State Veterinarian Marty Zaluski and Dept. of Livestock Executive Officer Christian MacKay, as well as with President of the Senate Jim Peterson and Speaker of the House Mike Milburn.
“I can’t stress enough that you must become an advocate, if you are going to protect your rights as a property owner and ag producer,” advised Milburn. “There are a lot of tough issues out there, like the current eminent domain one. There is a real need for transmission lines, but at the same time, the rights of the property owner need to be met.”
Peterson said as he looked around the room of young producers, he was very optimistic about agriculture, the state’s largest industry. “It seems agriculture is what’s going to lead this state out of its economic depression,” Peterson said. “This is the first time in a long time that agriculture is leading this show and you young people are the ones who are going to lead.”
In addition, they learned about working with the media and legislators in a session conducted by Ariel Overstreet, MSGA and Nicole Rolf, MFBF.
Overstreet encouraged the group to accept media interviews, gave them tips on getting their message across, and how to put a positive face on a story. Rolf told the group that before they testified, “Read the bill, make sure your comments are relevant, be factual, and tell your story in a concise manner.”
“This was an amazing opportunity to sit in on the hearings and see the legislative process in actions. Several of our group testified on a predator bill,” noted Charlie Rein, chair of the Montana Young Stockgrowers’ from Big Timber. “We were able to sit in the gallery and watch the Senate floor session, another really good experience. I feel privileged to have been able to meet one-on-one with our legislators, talk directly to agency leaders, and even have a guided tour the Capitol during this excellent event.”