Written by John Grande, 2nd Vice President, MSGA
As year-end approaches it’s a good time to look back as well as forward, at the issues that the Montana Stockgrowers Association dealt with this year, and the issues we’ll be dealing with in 2020. It’s a time to focus and prioritize to ensure that in 2020, MSGA is working on the issues most important to our members.
2019 was a legislative year and we had a successful session. MSGA dealt with issues including the Department of Livestock’s budget and long-range building appropriations, increased livestock loss funding, meat placarding at retail, and one of our priority issues, HB 286, which addressed DNRC’s attempt to claim ownership on some of our water rights.
MSGA worked closely with our Congressional delegation and our partners at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association on issues such as electronic logging devices, Waters of the U.S., Fake Meat, and improving access for our quality American beef into foreign markets. While the United States- Mexico-Canada Agreement remains bottled up in Congress, and Chinese trade negotiations are ongoing, we achieved success in an EU trade deal where the U.S. will fill nearly 80% of the EU quota of 45,000 tons of hormone-free beef. The biggest win was the Japan Beef Agreement which reduced tariffs on beef from 38.5% to 27.6 % and eventually down to 9%, ensuring continued competitiveness in our largest export market. It was an honor to have President Fred Wacker and Senator Steve Daines at the White House for the signing ceremony.
After the fire at Tyson’s Holcomb plant and the aftermath of the market, MSGA quickly contacted the CFTC to ensure that all futures trades were being closely monitored, and we further asked USDA Secretary Perdue to investigate. MSGA remains committed to responding in a positive way to the facts of the situation and to seeking positive solutions.
Speaking of responding in a positive way, how about Miss Montana USA? When she made derogatory and inaccurate statements about our industry the MSGA staff was there with a professional, courteous response to educate her and get the true story out. This was our biggest story of the year, generating a large amount of positive press for our ranching community.
Looking forward, a major issue will be the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes water compact. As of this writing, Senators Tester and Daines are drafting legislation to move the compact forward. It is critical to MSGA members that progress is made in a timely manner. Chief Water Judge McElyea has issued two stays keeping the CSKT rights from being enforced while the compact is under consideration. The first of these stays expires January 10, 2020. If Congress is not moving forward with adopting a compact, Judge McElyea could choose not to extend the stays, meaning the tribes’ off-reservation rights could be enforced as early as irrigation season of 2020, throwing the issue into the Montana adjudication process and potentially costing Montana water rights holders (and taxpayers) millions of dollars.
As always, MSGA will have our hands full moving forward and it is critical that we hear from members as to how best to proceed.