Stockgrowers comment on announcement of U.S. beef access to China

Helena, Mont. (May 12, 2017) – The Montana Stockgrowers Association issued the following statement regarding the announcement that an agreement has been reached between the White House and China to restore U.S. beef access:

“As the second largest importer of beef, we are extremely excited that an agreement has been made to restore U.S. beef to China. Montana’s ranchers have been waiting since 2003, to ship the nation’s highest quality beef to China’s 1.3 billion consumers.” Errol Rice, Executive Vice President, Montana Stockgrowers Association.


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.

Podcast Update || MidYear Meeting 2017

Kori and Errol discuss highlights of this year’s MidYear Meeting and why this is one event you don’t want to miss out on!

Montana Stockgrowers Association commends confirmation of Representative Zinke

Helena (March 1, 2017) – The Montana Stockgrowers Association (MSGA) today applauded the U.S. Senate’s confirmation of Montana Congressman Ryan Zinke to serve as the next U.S. Secretary of the Interior.

MSGA Executive Vice President, Errol Rice noted Zinke’s experience living in the west gives him a unique perspective of public land issues.

“We are excited to see the confirmation of Congressman Zinke,” said Rice. “He has a thorough knowledge of natural resource issues and how the management of said issues impact the states. Representative Zinke has been a great advocate for Montana and ranching during his tenure in Congress. We look forward to continuing to be a resource for him on the complex and diverse issues that impact not only Montana but the nation.”


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.

China Lifts Ban on U.S. Beef

After 13 years of closed access, the Montana Stockgrowers Association (MSGA) welcomed the news of the Chinese government lifting the ban on the import of U.S. beef. As one of the largest importers of beef, exports to China will open up new opportunities for Montana ranchers.

China’s imports have risen dramatically, reaching a record $2.3 billion in 2015. USDA forecasts that China will surpass Japan as the second-largest beef importer with imports estimated at 825,000 tons in 2016. Rapidly rising demand for beef has made China the fastest-growing beef market in the world.

Montana Stockgrowers President, Gene Curry of Valier notes, “This news comes at a time when the markets are at the top of mind for every cattle producer. China is home to one-fifth of the global population and a major importer of protein, we look forward to providing China with high quality beef. On behalf of our membership, I would like to personally thank Senator Daines and Ambassador Baucus for their work in opening this exciting new market.”

This past May, MSGA sent a letter to Vice-Premier Zhang that was hand delivered by U.S. Senator Steve Daines. The letter promoted Montana beef’s quality and encouraged lifting the ban on U.S. beef.


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.

Livestock Groups Consider MOU for Brucellosis Management | Podcast

PodcastThe National Public Lands Council is hosting their annual meeting this week in Cody, Wyoming. Several Montana ranchers are taking advantage of the close proximity to attend the conference and meeting with public land users from across the country. Montana Stockgrowers and Montana Public Lands Council has several representatives at the meeting and we’ll be catching up later with Jay Bodner to learn more about the big topics of discussion coming out of the event.

Ranchers representing the Montana Public Lands Council in Cody this week include Vicki Olson of Malta and MPLC President, John and Joe Helle from Dillon, George Trischman from Sheridan and Johnny Schultz

Earlier, Montana Stockgrowers took part in a Tri-State Meeting prior to the PLC conference in Cody, to meet with representatives from our neighboring states of Idaho and Wyoming. MSGA Executive Vice President, Errol Rice, shares more about the topics discussed on the Stockgrowers podcast. As part of the meeting, the three states agreed to encourage state and federal agencies to create a working committee that will work toward better solutions for managing brucellosis in the Greater Yellowstone Area.

Click here to listen to today’s podcast on a new page.

Errol Rice: We are a Global Business

Errol RiceFree trade is on the minds of Congress, MSGA and many U.S. business executives these days as the White House looks to push for reauthorization of Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) as well as a watershed Pacific trade deal with Japan and 10 other countries. The Japan agreement is better known as TPP. Congress is also weighing in to modify mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) requirements.

MSGA was actively involved in the formation of COOL legislation during the 2002 Farm Bill. Since that time, the program has been challenged in the World Trade Organization (WTO) by Canada and Mexico. The WTO’s Appellate Body has determined that our COOL requirements unfairly discriminate Canada and Mexico’s beef exports. Canada and Mexico are now seeking more than $3 billion per year in sanctions against a variety of U.S. exports. According to the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C., the top Montana exports affected by retaliation include cattle, cherries, corn, pasta and jewelry valued at right around $10 million.

MSGA has long supported COOL, but realizing the significance of retaliation, the MSGA Beef Production and Marketing Committee and the Board of Directors adopted new interim policy on June 6th. The policy supports the repeal of our current COOL statute and then work to develop a comprehensive, broad-based labeling program for U.S. beef.

On June 10th, the House passed H.R. 2393, the COOL Amendments Act, by a vote of 300-131. H.R. 2393 amended the Agriculture Act of 1946 to repeal mandatory COOL. As I write this piece, the Senate Agriculture Committee is deliberating on its own version of a COOL bill. The Senate may have some hurdles to jump to get the required 60 votes for full repeal but we will be monitoring and weighing in on this very actively in the next several weeks.

Since 1974, Congress has enacted TPA legislation that gives the President guidelines on negotiating trade agreements while giving Congress the final up or down vote. A consensus version of TPA passed through both the House and Senate this month and is headed to the President’s desk (as of this writing). MSGA has worked very hard to ensure that agriculture and business has the balance of power to get TPA reauthorized.

Our point of view is that there was a time when the largest part of our economic activity was domestic, but now our future depends on our ability to be globally competitive. TPA is key to accessing the additional demand from the 96% of consumers that live outside the United States. TPA eliminated tariffs on U.S. beef by 40%, 20% and 89% in Korea, Panama and Colombia alone.

We are trying to level the global playing field. According to Michael Froman the U.S. Trade Ambassador, the average tariff in TPP countries is three to four times as high as ours is. It equates to 70% on autos, 50% on machinery, 35% on chemical and 50% on beef. A successful TPP agreement will either make these zero or much lower which in turn creates more economic opportunity for our U.S. cattle market. Let’s also not forget about China. There is no formal access for U.S. beef into China. If we care about American jobs and beef’s role in feeding a global population then we have to make progress on all of these fronts.

Looking Ahead For Montana Sage Grouse Stewardship | Podcast

PodcastOn this week’s podcast, we’ll continue our conversation with Stockgrowers Executive Vice President, Errol Rice, to find out what happens in policy work after the legislative session ends in Helena. Plus, we’ll have a recap on sage grouse stewardship and what conservation of this bird’s habitat means for ranchers in the western states.

Learn more about Senate Bill 261, which establishes Montana’s sage grouse stewardship plans, that was signed by Governor Bullock last week.

Have questions or suggestions for future podcast topics? Connect with us via our Contact form.

Montana Stockgrowers Addresses Policy Focus and Priorities during Legislative Session

Errol RiceBy Errol Rice, MSGA Executive Vice President

Three overarching policy areas were paramount to Montana Stockgrowers during the 2015 Montana State Legislature – adequate funding for the Department of Livestock, passage of the CSKT Water Compact and the Sage Grouse Conservation Act. Each brought varying degrees of controversy and unwavering points of view by lawmakers and constituents, but we made the lift. There is still work to be done.

Fundamentally, there are three different approaches MSGA could have taken on these issues. We could have just simply reacted and waited to see if we’d be forced to respond to new and unanticipated policies. We could have only monitored and gleaned information to anticipate policy changes. We could have undergone direct participation in the process and shaped policy to minimize threats and advance opportunities. We chose direct participation in the process. This approach is the most costly in terms of resources, but the results in my opinion have yielded the greatest benefit to our industry.

The Department of Livestock budget came together after weeks of negotiations between livestock interests, House Appropriations and the Senate Finance committee. MSGA worked hard on the appropriations process. For months, leading up to the session we have been offering feedback and briefings to legislators on the tightening of costs and revenue projections, adjusting fees, recalibrating Board governance, human resource policies and procedures, and building a long-range plan. MSGA has also focused on vetting and making recommendations to the Bullock administration about appointments to Department’s Board.

The Governor’s nomination of Lila Taylor is a game changer. We supported and stewarded her candidacy through the process. Lila brings over forty years of industry experience along with a foundation in legislative appropriations and sharp understanding of how to serve on high-level boards.

She has served on the Board of Regents and the Montana Board of Public Education just to name a few. We also supported the confirmation of Nina Baucus and reappointment of Brett DeBruycker. Both of whom are stalwarts to the successful future of the DOL.

The CSKT water compact was a very complex policy matter that required intense due diligence by the water committee, Board of Directors, legal counsel and our lobbyists. We had to establish a high degree of confidence that the compact protected historic water rights both on and off the Flathead Reservation. Ratifying an agreement of this magnitude is of course going to draw a level of skepticism by some people.

There are almost no public policy decisions that enjoy unanimous support from all constituents, but as a matter of mitigating our industry’s risk exposure from tribal water claims, this compact needed passage. This proposal still has to go before the U.S. Congress for authorization and this could take years. After that, the CSKT’s tribal council must formally approve it. Following the tribe’s approval, the Montana Water Court must consider it.

In the meantime, the tribe must file their water rights by June 30th of this year. Those claims will be put on hold while Congress takes up the compact. MSGA will continue to be fully engaged at all levels of the compact’s life cycle moving forward.

Since April of 2013 MSGA has been working to develop a Montana solution for the conservation and management of sage grouse with the intent of avoiding a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listing of the bird under the Endangered Species Act. A listing by the USFWS would have a devastating impact to Montana’s livestock economy.

The passage of Senate Bill 261, solidified a mechanism for private landowners to maintain, restore and expand sage grouse habitat. Furthermore, it offers incentives for private landowners to participate as well as provide mitigation options for project developers such as coal, oil and natural gas to meet their regulatory obligations. MSGA has been at the forefront of getting Montana’s plan structured the right way for grazing interests.

Montana’s livestock industry is profoundly affected by public policy decisions. Anybody can be a part of this process but MSGA will continue to build from the bottom up to access key policy makers, providing credible technical information and influence. Political advocacy is not always easy and it is a competitive endeavor but we have to play to win.

I read a piece recently by Stanley McChrystal, who led U.S. forces in Afghanistan and now advises CEOs on leadership. He said that political chiefs handling national security in Washington would benefit from a bit of white-water rafting together. That would build personal relationships that promote cooperation during times of crisis.  This is important from my point of view in that political advocacy is not always about making a statement but actually showing that we can develop meaningful relationships and lead on major issues affecting our industry.

Why Affiliate with a Professional Trade Association?

Errol RiceBy Errol Rice, MSGA Executive Vice President

We often receive questions about how and why MSGA structures formalized relationships with national trade associations. In our case, we have a formalized relationship with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. I would like to offer some broader context about why having a state and national relationship structure is important. Strategically, we always find benefit in maintaining both formal and informal relationships with a variety of state and national organizations. Building coalitions is something that we do in Montana as a way to leverage agriculture’s influence at the state capitol. The Montana agriculture coalition is very effective. Members of this coalition include: the Montana Cattle Women, Montana Farm Bureau Federation, Montana Grain Growers Association, Woolgrowers Association, Farmers Union, Montana Pork Producers and Montana Agribusiness Association, WIFE, Montana Water Resources Association, and others.

From a policy perspective, MSGA can wield influence pretty effectively within the state of Montana. We can even strategically align with our Congressional delegation to leverage our positioning in Washington D.C. However, our sphere of influence becomes limited if we cannot access a broader industry network through the NCBA. We have to be able to insert and scale our positions into a larger framework. Do we always get what we want? Of course not. More often than not though, we do get what we want. We have a seat at the table. We are always in a position to negotiate our best interests.

Most importantly, we share resources in the areas of social media, communications, issues management, political action, and producer education. We have successfully elevated the profile of some of Montana’s best in the areas of environmental stewardship and beef quality assurance. Our talent pipeline remains full because we sponsor young ranchers into the NCBA Young Cattlemen’s Conference. This is an amazing leadership development program. We share resources in information technology, allied industry networks and contacts that help to move our initiatives forward in Montana.

Like any relationship. It takes effort and work. A relationship is only as good as the amount of effort that you put into it. Sometimes people get upset over a policy position taken nationally that doesn’t sit well with them personally. That doesn’t mean you give up on the relationship. Instead, it means that you find a way to influence the process of decision making in a more meaningful and impactful way.

Developing high impact relationships is one of the most beneficial outcomes that I see in carrying out both formal and informal relationships with professional trade associations. These relationships can help move our business forward, innovate and create value to the system.

MSGA works to ensure ranchers’ voices are heard on bison management

Helena – On April 14, the Montana Stockgrowers Association (MSGA) attended an open house in Gardiner, Mont. hosted by the Interagency Bison Management Plan partners to discuss their “adaptive management adjustments” that would allow bison to roam freely outside of Yellowstone National Park in the Gardiner basin. A formal agreement on the adjustments was finalized by the partners with no input from the local citizens or area ranchers who would be affected. MSGA’s Executive Vice President, Errol Rice, and chairman of MSGA’s Cattle Health Committee, Dr. Dick Raths, attended the open house to ensure Montana ranchers’ voices were heard on the issue. Several area ranchers joined with many local concerned citizens to voice their disapproval of the plan.
Rice toured the Gardiner area earlier in the day to see first-hand the effect of the bison.
“What we really saw was chaos on the ground with a tremendous amount of bison out in the greater Gardiner basin area and what appeared to be a real lack of leadership by the Interagency Bison Management Plan partners,” Rice said.
Rice said further that although MSGA understands the IBMP partners’ desire to adapt their management, their lack of transparency leaves ranchers very concerned. While the partners hosted an open house, they did not release the plan prior to the meeting or give a forum for public comment on the plan.
“They are really on shaky ground because they have no support from Montana ranchers or the ranching community at this point, due to their lack of transparency and accountability to our concerns with the issue,” Rice said. “Montana ranchers do have a lot at stake with the brucellosis issue and we’ve sacrificed a lot already.”
Rice said that based on viewing the situation first-hand and attending the open house, MSGA is opposed to the adjustments for the Gardiner basin.
“We are not only asking the IBMP partners to revoke this Gardiner basin adaptive management plan, but to also demonstrate leadership and ensure ranchers voices are being heard on this,” Rice said.