Things were busy as we had several visitors at the office on Thursday afternoon, August 7. Congressman Steve Daines stopped by the Montana Stockgrowers’ office as a part of his agricultural tour across the state during the legislative August recess.
Daines met with a number of representatives from Montana’s agricultural coalition to discuss priority issues that are of concern for the state’s farmers, ranchers and rural communities. Representatives from the Grain Growers Association, Agricultural Business Association, Grain Elevators, Montana Livestock Ag Credit were on hand for the meeting. Stockgrowers staff also represented Public Lands Council and the Association of State Grazing Districts.
Each group had the opportunity to bring forward issues affecting their membership in an effort to help Daines stay up-to-date on critical matters impacting the state’s rural residents. Topics discussed included:
- EPA’s Waters of the U.S. proposed ruling and its impact on farmers and ranchers across the state. Daines noted that this has been the number one issue for the agriculture community as he has traveled across the state. (Click here for MSGA’s preliminary analysis)
- The importance of neonicotinoids use as a seed treatment and crop protectant for wheat growers was a concern, especially as it relates to criticisms of being associated with declining beef populations.
- Grain elevators are concerned about increased inspections and fines imposed from OSHA. Elevator operators appreciate the emphasis on safety, but would like to see more cooperation from OSHA on compliance issues and information.
- Rail transportation for grain growers across the state continues to be an issue of great importance as competition increases for exporting the state’s commodities. Rail backlogs, price competition, and union strikes at sea ports continue to put a strain on moving grain, especially as summer and fall harvests progress.
- Implementation of Farm Bill programs through FSA offices continues to be a priority for farmers and ranchers across the state. Importance is placed on information sharing between FSA and producers to make sure available programs are implemented in a timely manner.
- As cattle prices continue to reach record levels, access to operating capital is a growing concern for producers and banking institutions. Importance in placed on making sure banking and financial regulations are not a burden on banks being able to provide for their customers.
- For cattle and sheep producers across the state, cooperation with federal agencies is important for access to grazing lands. Producers want to ensure their allotments are not threatened by retirement of the agreements.
- Listing of the sage grouse as an Endangered Species continues to concern the state’s ranchers. Montana’s state sage grouse plan is due out this Fall and the state needs time to implement the plan and have time to showcase the effects before 2015 implementation of the federal rule.
- Management of weed control, along with conifer and sagebrush encroachment on rangelands continues to be an important issue for grazing allotments on U.S. Forest Service lands. Concerns were raised about USFS budgets for these issues and allowance for wildfire control to be treated partially as natural disaster budget issues.
Prior to meeting at the Stockgrowers office in Helena, Congressman Daines spent the morning with Townsend rancher, Dusty Hahn. Hahn gave Daines a hands-on look at issues affecting central Montana ranches, including grazing leases on private and public lands, management of irrigation projects and raising livestock on a family operation.
The Montana Stockgrowers looks forward to continued work with all of our Congressional leadership and cooperative efforts with all members of the state’s agriculture coalition to address issues affecting Montana’s farming and ranching communities.