Whether agricultural concerns revolve around livestock health issues, the farm bill, noxious weeds or taxes, members of the Montana Farm Bureau advisory committees had plenty to visit about during the organization’s summer conference June 12-14 in Fairmont Hot Springs. More than 170 members met to discuss issues and develop Farm Bureau policy for 2019.
The morning before the advisory committees met, they heard from lunch speaker William Perry Pendley, president, Mountain States Legal Foundation. MSLF is a non-profit legal foundation dedicated to individual liberty, property rights, limited government and the free enterprise system.
Pendley said it’s not right for citizens to be afraid of the government. The lawyer cited a variety of cases MSLF has taken on which run the gamut from grizzly bears to gun rights, property rights to environmental laws
“Although the Grizzly bear population in western Wyoming has recovered fully and can be managed by state wildlife officials consistent with the needs of humans living near the animal, environmental groups are demanding the Grizzly remains on the Endangered Species list,” Pendley said. “Tell a rancher that who lost 71 sheep that Grizzlies are wonderful. People in cities wax poetic about the predator, but they’re not up close and personal with the bears.”
“In addition to many other cases, MSLF is taking on the City of Boulder’s recently passed ordinance requires citizens to register their firearms at the police station,” Pendley said. “The legal question here is whether a municipality can undermine and ignore the U.S. Constitution.”
Following Pendley’s remarks the several commodity committees met. Concerns about private property rights and land use were part of the discussion with the Natural Environmental Resources/Forestry Committee. The group talked about the Montana Sage Grouse Habitat Conservation Program and Department of Interior reorganization.
The Wheat, Small Grains, and Forage Committee focused on the farm bill and its effect on crop insurance and conservation programs. The Livestock Committee covered a wide range of topics including labeling fake meat, biosecurity practices and emergency response, and Board of Livestock topics including per capita fees for livestock, DSA boundaries and brucellosis vaccines.
The Dept. of Livestock’s Mike Honeycutt explained to the Equine Committee the frequent negligence of horse owners to pay the per capita fee for livestock. The group reviewed their new brochure that will inform horse owners about necessary equine vaccinations and documents needed for transporting horses intrastate and across state lines. The Taxation Committee discussed ag land valuation, what is fair to agriculture vs. hobby farms, as well as per capita fees. The Promotion and Education Committee covered ways to reach consumers by adding new banners at fair and event booths. The Water Committee reviewed legislation on exempt wells and information on water adjudication.
Other committee meetings covered weed control, sheep and goat issues and creative ways to attract new members.
Grassroots policy development begins at these advisory committee meetings. Committee members bring ideas formulated at the committee meetings back to their county Farm Bureaus who develop policy which is then voted on at the MFBF Annual Convention.
The conference also offered interesting tours Thursday which included a large part of Butte history with an extensive visit to the Berkeley Pit where the group learned about reclamation attempts on vegetation near the pit; a mine tour at the World Museum of Mines where people had the opportunity to go into the abandoned Orphan Girl Mine, a visit to the Headframe Distillery to find out how Montana grains become quality spirits; and a look at the Silver Bow County Restoration Project along Silver Bow Creek.
“Our Farm Bureau tours are always very informative,” noted Roosevelt County farmer Todd Wolff. “You hear so much about the Berkeley Pit, it was interesting to see it firsthand and learn that the water is still rising and how they plan to mitigate that.”
“This Summer Conference was another successful event, from our educational workshops to the ideas exchanged at our committee meetings,” said MFBF President Hans McPherson. “In addition, our fundraisers for our MFBF Foundation made this meeting especially successful. We look forward to next year’s Summer Conference in Bozeman where we will celebrate our Centennial.”