Montana Livestock Groups Submit Bison Comments

brucellosisMontana Stockgrowers Association, Montana Association of State Grazing Districts and the Montana Public Lands Council, submitted comments regarding the Montana FWP’s DRAFT Environmental Impact Statement Bison Conservation and Management in Montana document. The 90 day comment period closed on September 11th. FWP has stated a record of decision is expected by early next year.

Our organizations comments were reflective of our membership policies regarding bison management. Some of the general concerns regarding a potential bison relocation included:

  1. Damages to fences by bison that compromise landowner attempts at good grazing management
  2. Private property owners expected to bear the brunt of the expenses
  3. Wild bison would be direct forage competitors with livestock, which would force cattle producers to reduce their herds if bison populations were present on their lands
  4. Federal and state grazing allotments may be put in jeopardy by the relocation of bison to these lands, negatively affecting Montana’s livestock industry

Our members have clearly stated in our policy that we are opposed to bison relocation, but we are committed to being active participants in future negotiations with all entities involved. Some of our critical concerns to any bison relocation include:

  1. The use of private lands without the landowner’s permission
  2. Any relocation must follow strict guidelines:
    • No diseased bison will be relocated anywhere in Montana, other than a state and federally approved quarantine facility or a packing plant for immediate processing
    • Before any other relocation, DFWP shall develop and adopt a comprehensive statewide management plan that is entirely consistent with 87-1-216, MCA

In reviewing the proposed alternatives, our organizations supported Alternative 1: No Action. In reviewing the entire document, there were numerous concerns regarding a number of sections in the Draft EIS.

Starting with the Genetics section, there appeared to be a recommendation to have a bison population of at least 1,000 animals for genetic purposes. Our comments stated potential herds with these types of population numbers would need extremely large landscapes and nutritional requirements that would lead to significant impacts on neighboring family ranches.

On the section of Brucellosis Management, disease management is one of the livestock industry’s most serious concerns. In the Bison/Agriculture Interactions section, federal grazing permits are referenced. Our organizations have experience with groups seeking to reduce or eliminate these grazing permits to allow more habitat for wildlife. Our concerns stated that many ranchers could be faced with significant legal costs to defend their permits over such challenges.

In the section of Costs to Bison Management, our organizations see some deficiencies it the realization of actual costs to the Department to manage a potential bison population. One of the major concerns among our members is the Department would engage in a restoration project and then have a shortage of funds to adequately run the program. Our organizations also recommend that if a bison proposal moves forward, it be conducted in an area where there is local support.

The Montana Stockgrowers Association, Montana Association of State Grazing Districts and the Montana Public Lands Council will continue to engage in all facets of this decision making process and keep the members informed on any developments.

Cattle Producers Gather in Denver to Establish Direction for Industry, Set Policy Priorities

National Cattlemens Beef USA logoMore than 600 cattle producers gathered for the Cattle Industry Summer Conference in Denver July 16-18 to help set direction for industry programs. The event included meetings of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, Cattlemen’s Beef Board, American National CattleWomen and National Cattlemen’s Foundation.

This has been a great year for cattlemen and women, and the optimism for our industry shows at this meeting,” said Philip Ellis, NCBA President and Chugwater, Wyo., cattleman. “With great prices and moisture across much of cattle country, spirits are high.”

A Checkoff Program update started the meeting, providing those attending for CBB or NCBA Federation an overview of programs being conducted to increase consumer demand for beef. The Conference’s opening general session gave attendees a glimpse of the industry’s proposed Long Range Plan 2016-2020 and included an industry overview from CattleFax.

Checkoff committees and subcommittees representing Convenience, Freedom to Operate, Global Growth, Beef’s Image, Market Research, Taste, Value and Nutrition and Health will begin this afternoon, and continue their discussions through Friday morning. At the same time, NCBA Policy committees, representing Agricultural and Food Policy; Tax and Credit; Cattle Health and Well-Being; Federal Lands; Cattle Marketing and International Trade; Property Rights and Environmental Management will be meeting.

Throughout the meeting, the various policy committees reviewed expiring policies and discussed proposed policy brought forward from the NCBA’s state affiliates. According to Ellis, the leadership of the association renewed their dedication to the policy priorities for 2015.

“The Cattle Industry Summer Conference is the time when our producer members are able to gather and tackle the business of the association,” said Ellis. “From continuing and renewing current and expiring policy, to discussing and passing policy to tackle the upcoming and emerging issues, this is our chance to work together to ensure NCBA remains on the forefront representing our membership.”

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans process continues with Congressional oversight. NCBA members remain committed to working with the administration and Congress to ensure the final guidelines reflect the highest quality science and the role of lean beef in a healthy diet.

The EPA has finalized their “waters of the United States” rule, and NCBA’s membership stands firmly opposed to this land grab by the administration. NCBA continues to work with Congress to rein in the administration’s regulatory onslaught and has joined with other land use groups in litigation again the agency.

NCBA members continue their strong support of trade, which adds value to our cattle and returns over $350 for each head of cattle sold. With the passage of Trade Promotion Authority, NCBA supports finalization and passage of the Trans Pacific Partnership and other pending free trade agreements. With preferential trade agreements currently in place, and other countries actively negotiating, the United States cannot afford to fall behind in this critical area. While COOL has for many years been a cost to the industry without benefit to producers or consumers, the NCBA urges the Senate to act quickly in passing repeal language, following the strong bi-partisan action in the House.

Although USDA/APHIS finalized their import rules for Northern Argentina and a region in Brazil, these rules were pushed through without the necessary risk assessments and jeopardize the health of our domestic herd. NCBA will continue to work with Congress and the administration to ensure the proper process is followed before allowing inspection and exports from these areas with a history of Foot-and-Mouth Disease.

NCBA continues to work with the state and federal governments to ensure multiple use on public grazing lands. Ranchers are closest to the lands and the best stewards of the natural resources, ensuring productive use, maintaining open space, and mitigating fire hazards. We will continue to ensure these uses are accounted for in future range management plans and wildlife habitat decisions.

Beef Checkoff and Policy Funding | Checkoff Chat

While the Checkoff may provide education and information about beef, it does not fund policy work

While the Checkoff may provide education and information about beef, it does not fund policy work

Q: Does the checkoff fund policy like COOL and the Dietary Guidelines?

A: The checkoff can only be a resource for information about beef and is prohibited from engaging in discussions about policy. Local, state and national policy membership organizations were formed for this reason and they carry out lobbying on behalf of their membership policies.

No checkoff dollars whatsoever have been used in any comments or actions related to COOL by any checkoff contractors or associated organizations on behalf of the checkoff. As the administrator of the Beef Checkoff, the Cattlemen’s Beef Board cannot take a position on policy matters and cannot lobby. These are matters producers should take up with their individual farming and ranching organizations.

Checkoff Chat Montana Beef CouncilRead more about the Beef Checkoff Programs in our Checkoff Chat Series with the Montana Beef Council. Click here to submit your own questions to be answered in future posts.

About the Beef Checkoff
The Beef Checkoff Program ( was established as part of the 1985 Farm Bill. It assesses $1 per head on the sale of live domestic and imported cattle, in addition to a comparable assessment on imported beef and beef products. States retain up to 50 cents on the $1 and forward the other 50 cents to the Cattlemen’s Beef Board, which administers the national checkoff program, subject to USDA approval. The Montana Beef Council was created in 1954 by cattlemen as a marketing organization for the Montana beef industry and is organized to protect and increase demand for beef and beef products through state, national and international beef promotion, research and education, thereby enhancing profit opportunities for Montana beef producers.

Communication Key For Association Policies

Bryan MussardMSGA has taken the lead on several issues this year and has done a lot of promotion for the beef industry in Montana. Our directors are well informed on current issues at hand. Please feel free to contact any of them in your area, if you have any concerns or if there is something going on in your area that needs to be brought to their attention.

With that said, communication is the key to the livestock industry’s success in the future. We started AMP (Affiliate Mentorship Program) this year to communicate more often and to stay better informed as Montana’s premier beef cattle association.

If you have resolutions you are considering presenting at the annual convention, it is imperative that you share it now with as many folks as possible. This will do several things. First, you will find out if MSGA already has policy on the issue you are concerned with. Second, it can be considered among fellow members to test the merit of it and possibly change some of the wording, if needed. The last and best thing this accomplishes is that by the time it is presented at convention, more people are aware of it and understand the issue. The resolution then has a better chance of becoming MSGA policy and the board can take action on it.

This is the type of communication that makes a better organization. When we communicate effectively, fewer assumptions are made, better outcomes are achieved and we become a stronger voice to promote our product and preserve our heritage.

One issue to think about is the possibility of the USDA stepping into the Beef Check-off as business partners. This is a result of the lack of congruency among the industry organizations. Secretary Vilsack feels compelled to write his own check off program to run alongside of our current one. It is a classic example of how governments will control people who can’t seem to get along and find their own solutions. It is time to set aside our minor differences about the check off and stand together as an industry or we are going to be paying a much higher rate in the future with less results than we had prior to the check off’s beginning in 1985.

I am adamantly opposed to the USDA having more control over our check off program and I am adamantly committed to meeting with key industry leaders to help stifle this move. MSGA’s leadership is already at work on this issue. Please take time to discuss this issue at your local affiliate meeting and we will have a good discussion about it at convention. We need to know where our membership stands on this issue, now.

Remember, the world is run by those who show up, but it is ultimately shaped by those who speak up.

Enjoy the rest of this historical fall in the Beef business and have a Gorgeous day!

–Bryan Mussard, Dillon, MSGA 2nd Vice President

Importance of Being Involved at the National Meetings | Podcast

tucker hughes stanford - msga presidentEach year, leaders from across the cattle industry meet for a summer meeting in Denver, Colorado as another opportunity to discuss important issues and to vote on policy guiding the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and Cattlemen’s Beef Board. This year, Montana ranchers had a strong showing as several members of MSGA leadership made the trip to represent our members and voice our concerns during the meetings. For the next few days, we will hear from some of those Montana ranchers and their perspectives on the meetings.

Today, we hear from MSGA’s President, Tucker Hughes on the importance of being involved and present at the national meetings. “The whole officer team attended several meetings up so we share what we learn with staff and leadership,” describes Tucker. “Being involved in these discussions lets us answer questions and be informed, accurate, and articulate when we talk with our congressional delegations about the issues with the facts in front of us.”

We also hear from a Past President of MSGA and current NCBA Region V Vice President, Tom Hougen of Melstone. “Summer conference gives us a real opportunity to discuss issues that affect not only Montana, but also the western states I represent. I have learned over the last 2.5 years that issues affecting Montana also affect all of the Western states. Issues at the forefront seem to be driven by environmental groups, the government with EPA and the Endangered Species Act. Those organizations or agencies are, whether they mean it or not, affecting our ability to ranch. Involvement with NCBA gives us a stronger, more unified voice in Washington D.C. and the ability to work together to try to save our ranches for our children and our grandchildren.

Listen to the podcast below for more from these Montana ranchers. This is just the first portion of our podcast covering the recent summer industry meetings in Denver. Stay tuned for our next podcast where we’ll discuss important policy issues discussed during, including EPA’s proposed changes to the Waters of the U.S. Rule, industry-wide efforts to improve sustainability beef checkoff increases, and cattle health issues including disease concerns surround the import of foreign beef and changes to the FDA’s antibiotic labeling rules.