Daines Discusses Issues With Montana Agriculture Groups

Congressman Steve Daines answers questions from local television reporters prior to a meeting with Montana agricultural groups at the Stockgrowers office on August 7, 2014

Congressman Steve Daines answers questions from local television reporters prior to a meeting with Montana agricultural groups at the Stockgrowers office on August 7, 2014

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.

To learn more about our legislative and policy efforts, visit mtbeef.org or contact the MSGA office in Helena, (406) 442-3420.

Montana Stockgrowers Participate in Spring Legislative Session

Montana Coffee Washington VisitWhile Capitol Hill may be on the opposite side of the country, many laws and regulations passed by policy makers affect our industry on a regular basis. Earlier this month, MSGA leadership and staff continued out commitment to representing our members and the Montana ranching community by making a trip to Washington D.C. for the Spring Legislative Conferences for both the Public Lands Council (PLC) and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA). During the visit, MSGA leaders had the opportunity to meet with congressional representatives and discuss important issues that are important to Montana’s ranching families.

Our Association was represented by MSGA Executive Vice President, Errol Rice; MSGA Director of Natural Resources, Jay Bodner; current MSGA President, Tucker Hughes of Stanford; current MSGA 1st Vice President, Gene Curry of Valier; Montana CattleWomen’s President, Wanda Pinnow of Baker; and MSGA Past Presidents, Watty Taylor of Busby and Tom Hougen of Melstone.

The MSGA delegation attended the NCBA Issues Briefing on Tuesday afternoon. During the briefing session, NCBA Staff provided detailed information on several issues of great importance to the cattle and beef industries.

  • Changes to the 2015 Dietary Guidelines from the USDA
  • Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement and the push for full and free market access and elimination of tariffs.
  • Important trade issues, regulation changes and negotiations currently active with Japan, China, EU, Brazil
  • EPA proposed rule to expand their jurisdiction over all types of waters.
  • APHIS proposed rule for fresh Brazilian beef importation
  • Updates from the Public Lands Council on the Grazing Improvement Bill and impacts on grazing rights

It was apparent from the Issues Briefing that PLC and NCBA are continually meeting with D.C. policy makers on these important issues, including the volatile trade talks. In order to support their efforts, it is important that state and local organizations stay in contact with congressional delegates to reinforce the importance of these issues to the ranching community.

MSGA leadership joined Montana’s congressional delegation for their regular Montana Coffee event on Wednesday morning. Throughout the day, they had opportunity to meet with Senators Jon Tester, John Walsh and Congressman Steve Daines. During the visits, MSGA thanked the delegation for inclusion of disaster assistance in the Farm Bill, opposition to the Farm Service Agency (FSA) office closures and our shared concerns over the significant impacts the USDA proposal to import Brazilian beef could have on the U.S. cattle industry. MSGA has submitted comments to USDA APHIS asking that the proposed rule be withdrawn.

In addition, MSGA discussed concerns over the significant impacts of a sage grouse listing on MT producers and the EPA proposal to expand their jurisdiction over all types of waters. MSGA also visited with the MT Delegation on the effects of bovine brucellosis on Montana’s livestock, the possibility of using federal funds to research the disease in cattle and ensuring a strong working relationship with APHIS to address this issue. Also discussed, were concerns of ranchers in Southeastern Montana about proposed expansion of the Powder River Training Complex based at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota.

Montana Stockgrowers continues work to build relationships and collaborate with state, government and industry leaders and congressional staff to develop innovative solutions to the issues Montana’s ranching community confronts, while preserving Montana’s complex natural landscape, history, economy, ethics and social values. This follows our mission to protect and enhance Montana ranch families’ ability to grow and deliver safe, healthy, environmentally wholesome beef to the world.

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