MSGA advocates for Montana ranchers in Washington DC

The Montana Stockgrowers Association had a successful trip in DC, including meeting Secretary Pruitt(L to R) Back Row: MSGA First Vice President Fred Wacker of Miles City, MSGA Second Vice President Jim Steinbeisser of Sidney, MSGA Director of Natural Resources Jay Bodner, NCBA Environmental Counsel Scott Yager. Front Row: MSGA Communications Director Kori Anderson, EPA Secretary Scott Pruitt, MSGA President Bryan Mussard.



Contact:  Kori Anderson

MSGA advocates for Montana ranchers in Washington DC

The Montana Stockgrowers Association (MSGA) traveled to Washington DC to meet with Montana’s Congressional Delegation and Agency officials last week. President Bryan Mussard of Dillon, Mont.; First Vice President Fred Wacker of Miles City, Mont.; and Jim Steinbeisser of Sidney, Mont. attended the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s Legislative Conference April 10-12.

The MSGA officers met with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, U.S. Senators Jon Tester and Steve Daines, Congressman Greg Gianforte, and senior officials from the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).

Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) were a top priority of MSGA during the trip. They spoke extensively about the need for a permanent fix for livestock haulers, and the trio presented each member of the delegation with a list of minimums to consider.

MSGA had the opportunity to meet with Senator Daines the day before he met with President Trump to discuss the tariffs on China. The Association voiced their concerns over the proposed beef tariffs and explained the effect it would have on Montana’s number one industry.

A common theme of the week was reducing burdensome regulations, it costs ranchers $12,000 a year to comply with state and federal regulations. From the EPA to Interior, it was evident there was strong support for said action. Administrator Pruitt promised to look into streamlining the record keeping system for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) after discussion with the MSGA officers.

In order to best serve the ranchers of Montana, it is a priority of MSGA to work with the Congressional Delegation and Federal Agencies to accomplish the goals set forth by the membership. To learn more about what a membership with MSGA can do for you, please visit


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.

MSGA meeting with Secretary Zinke.

MSGA meeting with U.S. Senator Jon Tester.

Top Policy Initiatives in Washington D.C. for the Week of September 12, 2016

House Agriculture Committee Addresses Outdated Packers and Stockyards Act

This week, the House Agriculture Committee approved H.R. 5883, legislation to modernize the Packers and Stockyards Act. Enacted in 1921, the Packers and Stockyards Act is intended to protect buyers and sellers of livestock from unfair, deceptive, and discriminatory practices.

Having not been revised in decades, Rep. David Rouzer (R-NC), chairman of the Livestock and Foreign Agriculture Subcommittee, introduced H.R. 5883, to expand the definition of “marketing agency” to include video and online auctions and update acceptable payment methods to include electronic transfer of funds, ensuring the legislation keeps up with the latest technologies available as our industry and modern banking continues to evolve.

Sage Grouse Provision Key for Western Producers

Work continues in Washington, D.C., on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY17. The House-passed version of the bill includes a provision blocking implementation of Federal management plans for the greater sage grouse over ongoing successful management of the species by Western states, livestock producers, and others. As the conferees work through the various issues contained in this year’s version of the “must pass” legislation, it’s clear that House leadership is working hard to keep the provisions in place and protect producers.

Efforts are now focused on the Senate, and in particular Senator John McCain (R-AZ), the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.  Despite documented impacts to military training exercises at installations like Yakima Training Center in Washington State, not to mention the impact of the plans on rural western economies, Senator McCain continues to resist inclusion of this critical language. Senators from around the West will continue to press this case with McCain through the fall in order to ensure this important legislation crosses the finish line intact.

Senate Agriculture Committee Holds Hearing on CFTC Commissioner Nominations

Today the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry held a hearing to consider the nominations of Dr. Christopher Brummer and Brian Quintenz to serve as Commissioners of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

The CFTC is charged with fostering open, transparent, competitive, and financially sound markets, to avoid systemic risk, and to protect the market users and their funds, consumers, and the public from fraud, manipulation, and abusive practices related to derivatives and other products that are subject to the Commodity Exchange Act. The Commission is comprised of five Commissioners nominated by the President, with the advice and consent of the Senate. Currently, there are two Commissioner vacancies at the CFTC. Senator Pat Roberts, chairman on the Senate Agriculture Committee, opened the hearing by stressing the charge of the CFTC Commissioner.

“As noted by the CFTC’s own mission statement:  Farmers, ranchers, producers, commercial companies (or end-users), municipalities, pension funds and others use markets to lock in a price or a rate and focus on what they do best – innovating, producing goods and services for the economy, and creating jobs,” said Roberts. “It is essential that the CFTC have individuals in charge that truly take that mission statement to heart, as the innovation and hard work of our farmers and ranchers seems to have been forgotten in recent years.”

Chairman Roberts continued and highlighted the impact the CFTC has on the agriculture industry.

“Many of us here raised concerns when Dodd-Frank was being considered and insisted that the legislation should not negatively impact those who had nothing to do with the causes of the 2008 crisis, and it is important to note that this was a bipartisan concern. Yet, when Dodd-Frank became law, and the CFTC began writing new regulations, it is in fact our farmers, our ranchers, our county grain elevator managers who felt the heavy hand of over-regulation come down on them,” said Roberts. “It is clear that Congress should not withhold needed regulatory relief for our farmers, ranchers, and risk management service providers any longer. Nor should the CFTC. The CFTC must look through the lens of regulatory practicality – not the lens of regulatory irrationality.”

Now that the CFTC is close to being fully staffed, the Commission will have the man-power and time to investigate critical issues that impact the cattle industry, like volatility in the marketplace.

Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals Sides with Producers in EPA Release of Information

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday that the Environmental Protection Agency abused its discretion in disclosing farm information from producers across the country. In a long running dispute, EPA in early 2013 released the names, addresses, telephone numbers, and GPS coordinates of concentrated animal feeding operations from more than 30 states to environmental activist groups through a Freedom of Information Request. These groups included Earth Justice, the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Natural Resources

Defense Council.

Following objections by NCBA and other producer groups, EPA reviewed the information on over 80,000 facilities and concluded they had released too much information and requested the return of the electronic documents. Despite this effort, the harm had already been done and the farm information had been disseminated to many activist groups beyond the three groups that made the FOIA request.

In the case brought against EPA by American Farm Bureau and National Pork Producers Council, the Court validated the concerns of producers across the country by determining that EPA abused its discretion in releasing personal information of farmers and ranchers and directed the Agency to refrain from future releases of such information. The Court concluded that “the EPA’s disclosure of spreadsheets containing personal information about owners of CAFOs would invade a substantial privacy interest of the owners while furthering little in the way of public interest that is cognizable under FOIA.”

While this decision cannot recapture the information already released, it does effectively prevent EPA from releasing further private producer information. The case will be remanded to the district court for further proceedings.

Senate Passes Water Resources Development Act with Key Provisions for Agriculture

The U.S. Senate passed the Water Resources Development Act today with an amendment containing an exemption for animal feed products regulated by the EPA’s Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure rule. The bill passed by the Senate will bring much-needed regulatory relief for small and medium sized farms and livestock producers across the country who store oil, or oil products, at their operations.

The amendment to the bill championed by Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) would wholly exempt animal feed storage tanks from the SPCC rule, both in terms of aggregate storage and single-tank storage. Additionally, it exempts up to 2,000 gallons of storage capacity on remote or separate parcels of land as long as those tanks are not larger than 1,000 gallons each.

“When it comes to preventing spills from on-farm fuel storage, producers already have every incentive in the world,” said Senator Fischer. “We live on this land. Our families drink this water.”

In May 2014, Congress acted to ease the burden by exempting producers who had up to 6,000 gallons of aboveground storage and no single tank with a capacity of 10,000 gallons or more. However, that legislation neglected to fully exempt animal feed storage from the SPCC rule. Senator Fischer’s amendment provides that critical relief to our nation’s livestock producers.

The legislation must now be considered and passed by the U.S. House of Representatives.


Beltway Beef is a weekly report from Washington, D.C., giving an up-to-date summary of top policy initiatives; direct from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association

EPA Hands Over Maps Detailing the Extent of their WOTUS Proposal

EPA WOTUS Montana Expansion MapWASHINGTON (Aug. 27, 2014) –The House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology released maps today of waters and wetlands the Environmental Protection Agency has to-date refrained from making public. After multiple requests, the Agency finally handed over the maps to the committee, which appear to detail the extent of the “Waters of the United States” proposal.

“Given the astonishing picture they paint, I understand the EPA’s desire to minimize the importance of these maps,” said Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), Chairman of the House Science Committee, in a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “But EPA’s posturing cannot explain away the alarming content of these documents. While you claim that EPA has not yet used these maps to regulate Americans, you provided no explanation for why the Agency used taxpayer resources to have these materials created.”

Knowledge of the maps came as the Committee was doing research in preparation for a hearing regarding the proposed “Waters of the United States” rule. The maps were kept hidden while the Agencies marched forward with rulemaking that fundamentally re-defines private property rights, said Chairman Smith.

“It is deplorable that EPA, which claims to be providing transparency in rulemakings, would intentionally keep from the American public, a taxpayer-funded visual representation of the reach of their proposed rule,” said Ashley McDonald, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association environmental counsel. “Unfortunately, it is just another blatant contradiction to the claims of transparency this Administration insists they maintain.”

These maps are very similar to the maps produced by NCBA and other agricultural groups, which also showcase the EPA’s extensive attempt to control land across the country. These maps show individual states facing upwards of 100,000 additional stream miles that could be regulated under the proposed regulation.

“This is the smoking gun for agriculture,” said McDonald. “These maps show that EPA knew exactly what they were doing and knew exactly how expansive their proposal was before they published it.”

The maps are available on the House Committee website here. The Montana map is available by clicking here (maps are large files and may take a few seconds to load).

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EPA changes to Waters of U.S., Beef Sustainability and Checkoff Increases | Podcast

solar filled water tankOn today’s post we follow up with a podcast from the recent summer cattle industry conference held in Denver, Colorado. A broad range of issues were discussed at the meeting, but the subject drawing the most conversation was EPA‘s proposed changes to the Waters of the U.S. rule. We provided a preliminary analysis of the proposed rule changes in an earlier blog post. Click here to read more.

Ariel Overstreet-Adkins, who has been working on comments for the issue on behalf of MSGA, attended the meeting and shared a few comments. “Some of the major concerns the panelists brought up are some of the same concerns we’ve had while looking at this proposal. These include the broad definition of tributary, the change of definition of adjacent to include all waters and not just wetlands, and a really undefined catch all of other waters. Across the board, this rule seems to increase uncertainty, even though the EPA says they’re trying to make things more certain. We believe this is going to be costly for many industries across the U.S. and not just agriculture.”

The Property Rights and Environmental Management committee members also passed a resolution to lead the development of a beef sustainability program, inclusive of the beef value chain and stakeholders, which addresses the continued advancement in areas such as economic viability, production efficiencies, animal care and handling, environmental conservation, human resources and community support. MSGA believes this is a positive move for the industry to establish and verify sustainable practices most ranchers already utilize.

The Cattlemen’s Beef Board and Committees concerning the Beef Checkoff also held meetings while in Denver. One of the highlights of those meetings comes from a working group looking at the proposed Checkoff increase to $2 per head. Several industry groups are working together on a proposal for changes.

Listen to the podcast below for more on these topics. This is just the second portion of our podcast covering the recent summer industry meetings in Denver. Stay tuned for our next podcast where we’ll talk about important policy issues discussed during the meetings, including cattle health issues including disease concerns surround the import of foreign beef and changes to the FDA’s antibiotic labeling rules. We’ll also find out more about CattleFax’s outlook for the cattle industry.

Preliminary analysis of EPA/Corp’s Waters of the U.S. Proposed Rule

environmental protection agency epa logoAriel Overstreet-Adkins, MSGA legal/policy intern, has been working this summer to evaluate the EPA WOTUS rule changes. To learn more, contact the MSGA office, (406) 442-3420. To submit comments, visit before October 20, 2014.

MSGA is currently undertaking a comprehensive legal analysis of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) proposed change regarding the definition of Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) under the Clean Water Act (CWA). We hope to have our comments drafted by the end of August  to provide members with guidance about submitting your own comments, which are due by October 20. The proposed language itself is only about a page and a half in length. [View our online newsletter to read] The language would apply to 12 different sections in the Code of Federal Regulations. MSGA is also engaging with the Interpretative Rule that accompanied this proposed rule (see side bar).

One thing is certain as MSGA engages in a preliminary analysis; this proposed rule does not achieve the EPA and Corps’ goals of clarity and simplicity. There are many ambiguous words and phrases that could be interpreted in any of a number of ways. Our main areas of concern are on the definition of tributary which would include ditches. There are a couple of exemptions as it relates to ditches, but we are unsure how applicable those will be in Montana. Important words in the proposal are not defined, such as “upland,” “significant” in significant nexus, “other waters,” and “through another water.” The role of groundwater is also a murky area. While the EPA claims this rule does not regulate groundwater (and the CWA itself specifically says it does not) the new rule proposal includes language about “shallow subsurface hydrologic connection” between two bodies of water. That phrase is not defined and leaves confusion about the role of groundwater, whether it is regulated under this proposal, or if it can be used to establish a connection between two bodies of water with no surface connection for the sake of regulation.

Our biggest question at this point is what are we doing so poorly in the state of Montana that the EPA feels they need to obtain more jurisdiction over our waters? We have strong laws and regulations in the Montana and ranchers work hard to protect the land and the water that is so vital to their everyday operations. Our constitution recognizes and confirms existing rights to any waters for any useful or beneficial purpose and states that “all surface, underground, flood, and atmospheric waters within the boundaries of the state are the property of the state for the use of its people and are subject to appropriation for beneficial uses as provided by law.” (Article IX, Section 3(3)).

MSGA will continue to grapple with these questions as we analyze this proposed rule and its potential impacts on ranching in Montana. Earlier this month, MSGA staff attended the Montana Legislature’s Water Policy Interim Committee in Helena where this rule was discussed. Staff also had an excellent conversation with Senator Jon Tester’s staff about the proposed rule and our concerns.

To read the full proposal and other documents (including the EPA’s scientific and economic analyses); visit the EPA’s website at  If you have any questions or comments about the proposal, especially comments about how this proposal might affect you personally, please call Ariel at (406) 930-1317 or send an email to