At the close of week 13 of the 2017 Montana Legislative Session, we’re finally at a point where no new bills may be introduced. That deadline produced a flurry of fresh legislation last week for us to sort through, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Legislators have set a goal to be adjourned by Good Friday, which is coming on soon. They’re putting in extra hours and holding additional boards to get the 2017 Session wrapped up and save taxpayer money, which is commendable. 

Farmers and ranchers have one more opportunity to reach out to Governor Steve Bullock and ask him to support Senate Bill 155, the Seed Bill. This will provide regulatory consistency for Montana’s farmers and prevent a potential patchwork of seed regulations. This bill was a big win with very strong bi-partisan support in both the House and the Senate. Farm Bureau members came to Helena with strong support of the bill and worked hard testifying on the value of the Seed Bill in committee hearings and reaching out to urban legislators to share why this bill matters to us. That’s how positive bills gets put into action!

We need to make sure the Governor’s office understands that this legislation is important to agriculturists. Please take a moment to reach out to the Governor this week to share your support of the Seed Bill.  

What’s new: Aquatic Invasive Species bill package

Late last week, a bundle of bills targeted to deal with aquatic invasive species were dropped in the hopper.  These bills will devise plans, programs and funding to contain and prevent the spread of two primary aquatic invasive species – zebra mussels and quagga mussels. These mussels are quite prolific and can be devastating to waterways if they become established.

Last fall, Montana had its first positive and suspect positive test for these mussels in Tiber Reservoir and Canyon Ferry. If these occurrences aren’t halted and contained, the mussels pose a huge risk for irrigated agriculture – they can clog diversions, pivots and destroy canal systems. It’s an issue Montana is not taking lightly.  

Senate Bill 363: Generally revise aquatic invasive species

Sponsored by Senator Chas Vincent (R) SD-1, Libby. Passed Senate floor Friday, March 31, to be transmitted to House for committee assignment.

Senate Bill 363 is the funding component for the Aquatic Invasive Species bill. The state is looking at roughly $6 million per year for the next four fiscal years to fund the AIS program.  This bill initially introduced a fee system that will fund the program that would include fees on hydroelectric dams, decals purchased for watercrafts, and irrigated agriculture.

While we recognize how vitally important controlling these mussels is, we felt the initial bill proposal leaned too heavily on agricultural irrigators to foot this bill for a problem we did not create. Senator Vincent came back with a series of amendments to the bill, which we believe more equitably splits the tab for the AIS program. His amendments removed the fees on irrigated agriculture, which our members support and created a responsible, sustainable funding model to address this issue.  

House Bill 622: Generally Revise laws related to invasive species

Sponsored by Rep. Mike Cuffe (R), HD-2, Eureka. Passed House floor Friday, March 31, transmitted to the Senate for committee assignment.

This was one of two bills introduced to address the authorization of county invasive species ordinances; establish the Missouri River containment and quarantine program; establish the Upper Columbia pilot program and revise penalties dealing with aquatic invasive species. Montana Farm Bureau member policy supports these steps.

It’s important that Montana’s farmers and ranchers be well represented and engaged in this discussion, planning and the execution of the AIS prevention plan. Learn more at

Nicole Rolf is the Director of National Affairs and also a rancher from Miles City, Montana. Nicole can be contacted at (406) 951-2429 or Chelcie Cargill is Montana Farm Bureau Federation’s Director of State Affairs and a fifth-generation rancher from Melville, Montana. Chelcie can be contacted at (406) 930-2299 or The Montana Farm Bureau Federation is a non-partisan, non-profit, grassroots organization that represents 22,000 member families in Montana.