Gov. Bullock announces more cabinet appointments

MSGA has had conversations with both Martha Williams, the new director of the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks and Ben Thomas, the new director of the Department of Agriculture. MSGA will be setting up meetings with both directors once they begin their positions and looks forward to working with both directors.

Source: Independent Record

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock filled several key cabinet and adviser positions on Friday, including appointments to the state’s departments of agriculture and fish and wildlife.

Six cabinet members and key staffers resigned before the Democratic governor started his second term this month. With Friday’s announcement, vacancies remain in two departments: commerce and corrections.

Martha Williams

University of Montana law professor Martha Williams was named as the director of the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Bullock spokesman Tim Crowe said she will begin Feb. 1.

Williams teaches law classes on the environment, wildlife, public land and natural resources, according to her University of Montana biography. She previously was the U.S. Department of the Interior’s deputy solicitor and before that, an attorney for FWP.

Williams will replace Jeff Hagener, who served under three governors in 12 years in the position.

Members of the Montana Wildlife Federation said they are looking forward to working with Williams.

“Martha Williams has a distinguished career in wildlife management law and policy, including having worked for Fish, Wildlife and Parks in the past, as well as experience with other federal land and wildlife agencies,” Executive Director Dave Chadwick said.

Chadwick said Williams will be the first woman to be named FWP director in Montana, and said she’s one of few in the country.

“It’s pretty rare unfortunately,” he said. “There are not many wildlife agencies that have women as directors.”

Ben Thomas

Ben Thomas, a former U.S. Department of Agriculture worker, will become the new director of the state Department of Agriculture. Most recently, Thomas was the federal agency’s deputy undersecretary for its marketing and regulatory programs.

Thomas replaces former director Ron de Yong, who also was agriculture director under former Gov. Brian Schweitzer.

Kim Mangold, deputy director of the Department of Agriculture, will be interim director until Thomas arrives. Mangold, who has served as deputy director for a year and a half, said she didn’t know exactly when Thomas would take over, but expected it would be several weeks. Mangold worked with Thomas when he was an aide for former U.S. Sen. Max Baucus.

“We have a very good working relationship,” she said. “We’re very happy he’s going to be taking the position.”

Replacements for Mike Batista at the Department of Corrections and Meg O’Leary at the Department of Commerce still have not been hired, Crowe said. Two deputy directors, Doug Mitchell in commerce and Loraine Wodnick in corrections, are heading those agencies temporarily.

Bullock announced other key staffing changes:

Ken Fichtler

Ken Fichtler will become chief business development officer, heading the governor’s Office of Economic Development.

Fichtler has spent his career in high-tech business management and marketing. He is also an entrepreneur and business investor, having started Montana companies like Gecko8 Studios and Fermion Technologies, as well as co-founding the first and largest TEDx event in the state, TEDxBozeman. Most recently he has served as the senior marketing specialist for Lattice Materials. Fichtler is a graduate of the Montana State University School of Business.

Patrick Holmes

Patrick Holmes replaces Tim Baker as Bullock’s natural resource policy adviser.

Holmes most recently served as the chief of staff to the undersecretary for Natural Resources and Environment. During his tenure at the Department of Agriculture, he was trusted to provide counsel to the secretary of agriculture on issues related to forest restoration, innovative wood products, working lands conservation, wildland fire, and others affecting the U.S. Forest Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service. He holds a master’s degree in environmental management from Yale University and a bachelor of arts in natural resources management and policy.

Baker has been appointed to the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, and Jennifer Anders has been reappointed to the council.

For the last four years, Baker has served as Bullock’s natural resource policy adviser. In that capacity he has worked on issues ranging from energy development and water use, to wildlife, state lands, and mining. He will continue to advise the governor on energy policy. Baker was born in Detroit, Michigan and after graduating from the University of Michigan, he moved west to attend law school at the University of Montana. He worked for the Montana Public Service Commission as a staff attorney and chief counsel, and then with the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, where he focused on air quality. After leaving state government he was executive director of the Montana Wilderness Association, and was working for Montana Trout Unlimited when Bullock asked him to return to public service.

Anders was first appointed to the council in 2013 by Bullock. Prior to her appointment, she represented the state of Montana with the Attorney General’s office in civil and criminal cases on land use, water law and resource development issues. Anders holds an undergraduate degree from the University of California and a law degree from the University of Montana.

Jessica Rhoades

Jessica Rhoades leaves the state Department of Public Health and Human Services to become the governor’s health policy adviser.

Rhoades has 16 years of experience in health care and public policy. Prior to her appointment, she was the policy director for the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, where she oversaw the work of the Governor’s Council on Health Care Innovation, which resulted in Montana being selected to pioneer a public-private partnership for the largest primary care reform initiative of its kind in the U.S. She previously served as health policy adviser for former Gov. Brian Schweitzer and before that worked for the Office of the Commissioner of Securities and Insurance. She was northwest region public affairs director for a national health care provider, covering 14 states including Montana.

Ronja Abel

Bullock’s deputy communications director, Ronja Abel, will become communications director with Tim Crowe departing to take a position with the Montana National Guard.

Abel has served as Bullock’s deputy communications director for the past year and previously, she served as communications director for the Montana Department of Commerce and as program specialist for the Montana Small Business Development Center Network.

Independent Record reporters Holly Michels and Erin Loranger contributed to this report. 

Montana Agriculture in the Classroom Releases the Montana Invasive Species Education Project

montana department of agriculture logoThe Montana Agriculture in the Classroom program has released a comprehensive educational project on invasive species to help increase public awareness, identification, and reporting procedures.

Species which are non-native (invasive or alien) to Montana interfere and often destroy native plants, wildlife and livestock habitat, forests, waterways, and food crops.  These species, which may not harm the environment in their native area, can cause destruction and major problems when introduced to a new environment.

“The impact to agriculture and the environment can total in the millions of dollars once an invasive species is introduced. The best defense is to prevent their introduction in the first place. Where introduction does occur, we need to increase our ability to respond with education to identify and report threats from potential invasive species,” said Director Ron de Yong.

Invasive species addressed in this project include:  insects, plant diseases, nematodes, snails, clams, mollusks, crustaceans, reptiles, amphibians, fish, and noxious weeds. Over the past hundred years many plants, insects, and animals have been introduced into North America. Not all of them become invasive and push aside native varieties, but when they do, it can be devastating for the environment and economy, and even impact human health.

Invasive species use every trick in the book to hitch a ride to a new land – some have been spotted for sale on the internet, brought in as pets, or sold for ornamental landscaping. Step one is to learn about potential invasive alien invaders in your area.  The Montana Invasive Species Education project includes identification cards, a poster, pocket guides, and other resource materials.  Educators will be provided with lesson plans, a curriculum book on invasive species, and other materials aligned to state learning standards.  The project is available on the website or by contacting Lorri Brenneman at LBrenneman@mt.gov.

This project is a cooperative awareness and educational campaign of the following: Montana Department of Agriculture – Agriculture in the Classroom; Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation; Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks; Montana Noxious Weed Education Campaign; USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service; USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service; Montana Department of Transportation; Region 1 U.S. Forest Service; and Montana/Dakota Bureau of Land Management.

The Montana Department of Agriculture’s mission is to protect producers and consumers, and to enhance and develop agriculture and allied industries. For more information on the Montana Department of Agriculture, visit agr.mt.gov.

2016 Young Ag Couples Conference – Stockgrowers Delegate Nominations

We are looking for Young Stockgrowers interested in attending the 36th Annual Young Ag Couples Conference in Helena, January 13-16, 2016 at the Red Lion Colonial Hotel. Hosted by the Montana Department of Agriculture, the conference will explore contemporary issues facing family operated agri-business as well as development of leadership skills needed to survive in the cyclical economic climate of agriculture.

Montana Stockgrowers is able to nominate young ag couples to attend the conference each year. Couples selected to participate in the conference will have lodging and meal costs paid while in attendance. There will be a conference registration fee of $25 per couple.

To be eligible, couples should demonstrate leadership abilities and earn their primary living from farming, ranching, agribusiness, or other agricultural enterprises. Our age preference is 25-45 years of age. Due to funding restrictions, couples may only attend the conference once. If you have attended in the past, please let us know about your experience and nominate another young ag couple to attend.

To apply for the MSGA nomination, please submit a brief explanation of the following for you or a young ag couple you wish to nominate:

  • Description of the couple’s ag business/operation
  • Experience and educational background, community involvement, interest, hobbies, etc.
  • The couple’s vision for being leaders in the Montana agriculture community

Nominations and/or applications are due to the Montana Stockgrowers Association office no later than November 18, 2015, via mail to 420 N. California, Helena, MT  59601. Complete the electronic form below or click here to download the 2016 MSGA Young Ag Couples Nomination Form Submissions may also be emailed to ryan@mtbeef.org. For more information, contact the MSGA office at (406) 442-3420.

Nominations are now closed. Check back in October 2016.

State Adds Three New Invasive Plants to Noxious Weed List

Common Reed (Phragmites australis) - Click image to learn more

Common Reed (Phragmites australis) – Click image to learn more

The State of Montana updated the Montana State Noxious Weed List to include three new plants and shifted the priorities of three existing weeds effective July, 2015.

Noxious weeds are invasive plants that have been determined to have the potential to or have actual detrimental impacts to Montana’s environment and economy. Propagation of these state listed noxious weeds is prohibited by law. They are prioritized by the establishment of the weed and management criteria.

“Noxious weeds can impact the ecology of local areas in many ways and they can have a large impact on Montana’s agricultural sector. We update the list to reflect the highest priority noxious weeds that we try to prevent from becoming established or propagated within the state,” said Statewide Noxious Weed Coordinator Dave Burch.

One new plant was added to the priority 1A list, Common reed (Phragmites australis ssp. australis), which has been detected within the state. A priority 1A listing means the weeds are not present or have a very limited presence in Montana. If a weed is designated as a priority 1A it requires preventive measures, education about the noxious weed and eradication if detected.

“It’s extremely important that we do all we can to prevent, educate and, if necessary, eradicate any new priority 1A noxious weeds; based on their invasive behavior in nearby states, we believe that they can have a very detrimental effect on our landscape.  We often rely on eyes and ears out in the field to help manage and prevent noxious weeds from becoming established, so it is important to know the state’s priority noxious weeds, and help identify and inform weed managers,” said Jane Mangold, Associate Professor and MSU Extension Invasive Plant Specialist.

Brazilian waterweed (Egeria densa) and Parrot Feather Watermilfoil (Myriophyllum aquaticum or M. brasiliense) were added to the Regulated Plant List. Regulated plants require that none are sold or transported in Montana. Eurasian watermilfoil and Flowering rush were moved to a Priority 2A, while Hoary alyssum was moved to Priority 2B. Follow the link to view the current Montana Noxious Weed list: agr.mt.gov/agr/Programs/Weeds/PDF/2015WeedList.pdf

The Montana Department of Agriculture’s mission is to protect producers and consumers, and to enhance and develop agriculture and allied industries. For more information on the Montana Department of Agriculture, visit agr.mt.gov.

MSU Extension is a statewide educational outreach organization that applies unbiased, research-based university resources to address practical needs. For more information on MSU Extension, visit www.msuextension.org.

Dept. of Agriculture Seeks Two Producers for Australia Beef Genetics Trade Mission

Helena, Mont. – In a rare opportunity to participate in Montana’s rapidly expanding beef genetics export market, the Montana Department of Agriculture is seeking two representatives from the Montana beef genetics industry to join in a trade mission to Australia in May.

Australia is currently Montana’s second largest customer for beef semen purchases, yet Montana has never been on a trade mission to the country. “This is an exciting opportunity to grow in an important market and build on existing relationships,” said Marty Earnheart, Meats and Livestock Marketing Officer.

According to a report by USDA Foreign Agricultural Service, Australia herd size is expected to fall slightly to 27.6 million head due to persistent drought in some regions of the country, with beef exports accounting for almost 70% of their production. By comparison, the United States current inventory is 95 million head with 2.55 million head in Montana.

With the recent decrease in herd size in Australia, the department sees an opportunity to expand Montana beef genetics in the region as producers look to grow in their herds in the years ahead due to increasing international demand and additional trade opportunities.

“Although Australia’s herd size is only about a quarter of the United States, they are expanding their international beef trade. By showcasing Montana’s high-quality beef genetics, we see significate market potential,” explained Earnheart.

The trip dates have yet to be finalized, but it will coincide with 2015 Beef Australia from May 4 – May 9. The exposition is held just once every three years and will feature more than 4,500 cattle from over 30 breeds and facilitate new trade and export opportunities.

Montana beef genetic representatives interested in participating in the Australia trade mission should contact meat and livestock marketing officer Marty Earnheart via email: mearnheart@mt.gov or call (406) 444-2402 for an application. Applicants must have a valid passport and be willing to cover half of the travel expenses.

The Montana Department of Agriculture applied for and received funds through U.S. Livestock Genetics Export, Inc. (USLGE) from both the Market Access and Foreign Market Development programs. The awarded funds will pay for the department’s marketing officer’s travel and expenses, and at least half of each of the beef genetic representative’s travel expenses. USLGE is a not-for-profit, nationwide trade association that represents the international marketing interests of the dairy, beef, sheep, swine, and horse breeding industries.

The Montana Department of Agriculture’s mission is to protect producers and consumers, and to enhance and develop agriculture and allied industries. For more information on the Montana Department of Agriculture, visit agr.mt.gov.

Mont. Department of Agriculture Looks to Expand Beef Genetic Exports to South Africa

montana department of agriculture logoHelena, Mont. – Montana, known around the world as having some of the highest quality beef genetics, is continually looking for new markets. This year, after receiving funding, the Montana Department of Agriculture meat and livestock marketing officer Marty Earnheart, Montana State University Interim Dean and Director of the College of Agriculture and Agricultural Experiment Stations Dr. Glenn Duff, and two Montana beef genetic industry producers are poised to travel to South Africa in late January to assess the South African beef genetics market.

“Our high quality beef genetics are a multi-million dollar industry, with demand growing constantly,” said Ron de Yong, director of the Montana Department of Agriculture. “Usually, after visiting markets and getting to know our counterparts overseas, we can begin expanding our reach, and generating business opportunities for Montana’s beef genetics industry.  What an opportunity for two representatives from the industry to travel to South Africa.”

The South African beef sector has been identified as an emerging market for Montana’s beef genetics industry (embryos, semen and live animals for breeding purposes). A 2012 report by the Republic of South Africa Department of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries, found a beef consumption deficit, consuming more beef than it produced.  Further, market analysis found growing beef consumption across Africa, with population on the continent set to double by 2050. 

“Capitalizing on this program has been a boon for Montana beef producers in the genetics business. The work done by the Montana Department of Agriculture and Ms. Earnheart has had a profound impact on the Montana beef industry; for example, the mission to Russian in 2010 has generated some $23 million of trade revenue for Montana’s beef genetic industry,” explained Dr. Glenn Duff, Interim Dean and Director of the College of Agriculture and Montana Agricultural Experiment Stations at Montana State University.

The Montana Department of Agriculture applied for funds through U.S. Livestock Genetics Export, Inc. (USLGE); both the Market Access Program and Foreign Market Development program awarded funding to the department. USLGE is a not-for-profit, nationwide trade association that represents the international marketing interests of the dairy, beef, sheep, swine, and horse breeding industries. 

“We believe there is strong potential in South Africa for Montana beef genetics; the initial numbers look good,” explained Marty Earnheart, meat and livestock marketing director. “This is a great opportunity for two representatives from the Montana beef genetic industry to be involved in expanding business opportunities, and to meet representatives from the South African beef industry.”

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