Stockgrowers Update From North Central Montana

Jack HoldenBy Jack Holden, Valier, MSGA North Central District Director

Greetings to everyone from northern Montana.

What a great calving season it has been for everyone this year. Spring is off to a great start and from my travels across Montana delivering bulls it looks like everyone’s grass is off to an early start. We are in need of some April showers and a little less or maybe even a lot less wind up in this part of the state, but there is still time and I hear a lot of the state got a nice little shot of moisture in recent weeks.

Cattle prices are holding up great and it sure sounds like another great year for the cow-calf producers. It has been a great spring for our seedstock producers also.

It is hard to believe that it is already the end of April. Seems like 2015 is going by fast this year. As I write this, there are only a few days left in the legislative session. First, I want to thank all of the people that are serving in the legislature for all their hard work to do what is best for the people of Montana and especially the ones that are working hard to protect and preserve Montana’s agriculture sector.

Also, thanks to Errol and Jay for all the work they do lobbying to help support or oppose bills that go along with the policies we have in place from our membership. I think it has been a successful year so far, with what has happened in the legislature for Montana’s agriculture sector.

I know there have also been some very contentious issues out there to deal with, and not all of our membership is on the same side of them. In these cases, we have to follow policy set in place and do the best we can. I hope when the session is done it all works out for the best with whatever decisions end up being made.

I hope to see you all in Bozeman for Mid Year meeting on June 4-6. We have a great program lined up and what a beautiful time of year to be there. Please come and be involved, and count on having a great time.

In closing, I want you all to know that your MSGA board and staff is committed to being fully engaged with our membership and keeping open the lines of communication. It was great to see a good turnout from our local affiliates at the AMP meeting in Helena in February. We want to continue to have our members and affiliates involved and their voices heard.

MSGA will continue to be the leader in representing your interests in the state of Montana and on the national level. This is only possible with a strong and active membership. Thanks for being a member of MSGA and being involved.

Senate Committee Passes SB 262 on CSKT Water Compact

This morning, the Senate Judiciary Committee took executive action on Senate Bill 262 (Implement CSKT water rights settlement). The bill passed committee by a vote of 8-4 and will now advance to the Senate floor.

Republican Senators Chas Vincent (Libby, bill sponsor), Doug Kary (Billings) and Nels Swandal (Wilsall) joined Democrats Robyn Driscoll (Billings), Cliff Larsen (Missoula), Mary McNally (Billings), Mary Sheehy Moe (Great Falls) and Diane Sands (Missoula) to vote in support of the bill. We encourage you to reach out to these Senators in appreciation for the support of this important piece of legislation.

As you know, Montana Stockgrowers Association came out in support of the CSKT Water Compact last month. You can read our press release here.

On Monday of this week, the President Gene Curry testified in support of the Compact, SB 262, in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He outlined why the Stockgrowers Association supports this critical legislation:

  • The compact includes numerous protections for historic water users that would not be available through litigation.
  • In those cases where the CSKT are granted off reservation rights with a time in memorial priority date, the rights are limited in a manner to protect historic water use
  • If the compact is not ratified, water right claims filed by the CSKT will likely be larger, more senior and likely encompass a greater area of the state.
  • Regardless the outcome of the litigation it will be expensive, lengthy and disruptive to the current adjudication process

“It is important to pass this critical piece of legislation and not force thousands of family ranchers in similar situations of this type of litigation,” said Curry during his testimony.

To protect Montana’s ranchers, we need YOU to Take Action in support of the Compact.

Call your Senator and House members today and tell them to support the Compact – (406) 444-4800. Let them know that the compact is the right choice for ranchers. Individual contact information can be found on the Montana Legislature’s website.

For more information on the compact, you can go to the DNRC website and read more. MSGA will share more information about the compact in next week’s member newsletter.

Stockgrowers Joins Montana Agriculture Organizations in Support of Compact

(Helena, Mont.)— The Montana Stockgrowers Association, representing the business interests of Montana’s cattle ranching sector, and the foremost organization representing Montana’s water users, the Montana Water Resources Association, have joined forces with the Montana Farm Bureau Federation to support the state of Montana’s proposed Water Compact with the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes (CSKT).

“The Stockgrowers Association conducted a thorough legal analysis of the current CSKT Water Compact and through that analysis, our organization is supporting this Compact,” said Gene Curry, President of the Montana Stockgrowers Association. “It is important to protect historic water uses on and off the reservation and provide some certainty for all water right holders in Montana.”

The support of the Stockgrowers comes after the Montana Farm Bureau Federation declared their support of the Compact during the January 12th meeting of the Montana Reserved Water Rights Compact Commission and the Commission’s unanimous vote to move the Compact to the Montana State Legislature for further approval.

“We were very diligent in our review of the Compact and the impact it would have on our members if passed,” said Montana Farm Bureau Federation spokeswoman Chelcie Cremer. “Montana’s farmers and ranchers depend on reliable access to water to preserve their livelihoods.  The Compact will protect Montana’s agricultural industries and ensure water rights certainty for future generations.”

The Montana Water Resources Association also joined in supporting the Compact, citing the protection of private property and water rights that the Compact provides.

“If the Compact fails irrigators and water users will be forced to shoulder the costs of the litigation that will result,” said Mike Murphy of the Montana Water Resources Association. “Specifically, the Compact provides provisions that protect irrigators both on and off the reservation and ensure they are able to obtain access to the water resources they need. Protection of water and other property rights is of utmost importance to our organization and is an important aspect of why we support passing the Compact.”

“We are excited that the Montana Stockgrowers Association and the Montana Water Resources Association have joined FARM and the Montana Farm Bureau Federation in supporting the CSKT Water Compact,” said FARM Co-Chair and long-time Stockgrowers member, Lorents Grosfield. “These groups uniting shows that passing the Compact is truly for the benefit of all Montanans and will protect the interests of Montana’s farmers and ranchers.”

The support of the Montana Stockgrowers Association and the Montana Water Resources Association for the Compact shows the continued growth of support for the Compact among the agriculture community, irrigators, and water users across the state.

Farmers and Ranchers for Montana (FARM) is a grassroots coalition of farmers and ranchers, united with local leaders, Indian tribes, businesses and other Montanans committed to fair water policies and the approval of a Water Compact that quantifies and secures water access to the benefit of all Montanans. For more information visit

(Joint Press Release with Farmers and Ranchers for Montana)

2015 Montana Legislative Session Podcast – Week 1

The 64th Montana Legislative Session convened this week, on Monday, January 5th, in Helena. MSGA expects this to be yet another busy session, representing the interests of our members on a number of bills that will affect Montana ranchers and land owners. Each week during the session, MSGA Director of Natural Resources, Jay Bodner, and MSGA Manager of Communications will discuss what has taken place during the session and what legislative activity we can expect in the days ahead.

Stay tuned to our website as we will provide regular updates and member-exclusive information on activity during the legislative session. Just go to the Policies & Issues page under the About tab and log-in with your membership information.

Be sure to follow Montana Stockgrowers Association on social media for more information or contact our office in Helena with any questions at 442-3420.

For this week’s podcast, Jay Bodner and Ryan Goodman discuss MSGA’s role working with leadership during the legislative session and how you can track legislative activity through the state’s website.

How to Follow the 2015 Montana Legislative Session

Montana-State SealThe 64th regular session of the Montana legislature convenes in Helena on Monday, January 5, at noon. There are a variety of ways in which the public can monitor and participate in legislative proceedings.

Don’t forget, MSGA members can log-in on the Policies & Issues page of our website to receive updates on Stockgrowers’ activities and learn about bills we’re following throughout the session! Click here to visit the Policies & Issues page.

Watch or Listen

Gavel-to-gavel coverage of House and Senate floor sessions and selected committee hearings will be broadcast on cable television stations throughout the state through TVMT, a statewide government broadcasting service provided by the Montana Legislative Services Division through a contract with Helena Civic Television.

To find out if TVMT programming is available in your area:

  • Visit;
  • Contact your cable or other video service provider (Charter customers can view TVMT on Channel 191 throughout the state); or
  • Call the Legislative Communications Office at (406) 444-3067.

In addition, floor sessions and committee hearings will be video and audio streamed through the legislative branch website at

Floor sessions generally begin at 1 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 8 a.m. most Saturdays, while committee hearings usually begin at 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. weekdays.

Contact Your Legislator

Montana legislators are eager to hear from constituents about their positions on pending legislation. There are several ways you can contact legislators during session to express your views.

Beginning January 5, you can leave messages for legislators using an online form available at

You can also call the Legislative Information Desk at (406) 444-4800. An operator will take your message, which will then be delivered to the legislators. When leaving a message, be prepared to provide the operator with:

  • your name and address
  • the name of the legislator(s) or committee for whom your message is intended
  • the number of the bill you wish to support or oppose
  • a brief explanation for your position on the bill

You may leave messages for as many as five legislators or one legislative committee at a time. The service is available while the Legislature is in session Mondays through Fridays from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to adjournment.

The Legislative Information Desk does not accept anonymous messages or blanket messages to all legislators.

Additionally, you can write to legislators. Letters should be addressed as follows:

Senator (Name)
Montana Senate
PO Box 200500
Helena MT 59620-0500


Representative (Name)
Montana House of Representatives
PO Box 200400
Helena MT 59620-0400

If you aren’t sure who your legislators are, contact your local elections office or visit the legislative website at and click on the “Legislators” link and then on “Find a Legislator”. The “Find a Legislator” page includes additional details about contacting legislators

Track Bills and Find General Legislative Information

The legislative process relies on the participation of informed citizens. The Legislative Automated Workflow System, or LAWS, is a free online service that provides legislative information before, during, and after sessions. With it, you can find:

  • Complete text of legislative bills
  • Up-to-date status of bills
  • Committee hearing schedules
  • Agendas for committee hearings and floor sessions
  • House and Senate votes on bills

You can find a link to the LAWS website for the 2015 session on the legislative website at There is a new link this session on the LAWS website’s main page to an instructional video library. The library contains a number of easy-to-follow videos that explain how to use the system.

The legislative website also contains an array of other information regarding the legislature and the legislative process. Additionally, you can also follow legislative activities through Facebook or Twitter. For details, visit the legislative website at

Testify at Hearings

One of the most important opportunities to become involved in the debate over a bill is when it’s the subject of a hearing before a legislative committee. You can communicate personally with legislators at any time about any bill, but the committee hearing is the occasion when anyone may publicly approve, oppose, or suggest changes to a bill.

You can testify on any bill that concerns you. Each committee of the House and Senate is assigned to a specific meeting room in the Capitol. By rule, the time and place of committee hearings are scheduled at least three days in advance. Hearing schedules can be found as noted above through LAWS, or you can call the Legislative Information Desk at (406) 444-4800.

Occasionally, if a hearing is expected to attract a large crowd, it may be moved to a larger room. Such changes are noted on hearing schedules and notices are placed outside the regular meeting rooms. Changes are also posted on the legislative branch website as well as on the legislative Facebook page and Twitter account.

–Press Release: Montana Legislative Communications