By Rachel Cone and Nicole Rolf, Montana Farm Bureau Federation

            We’ve wrapped up week 14 of the Montana Legislature and the legislature is moving quickly towards the end of the 68th Legislative Session. As we near the finish line, we want to provide an update on bills we advocated for that reached the governor’s desk and became laws. This week Congressman Ryan Zinke’s hosted a Farm Bill listening session at the Montana Farm Bureau Center:

            Signed by Governor Gianforte back on March 2, HB 153 Generally revise laws related to livestock markets sponsored by Brandon Ler (R) HD 35 aligns Montana Department of Livestock policy with federal policy. HB 153 allows online livestock auctions to be bonded the same as current live cattle auctions and updates Montana Department of Livestock’s policy regarding online auctions to be compatible with current USDA policies. HB 153 also eliminates “red tape” in applying for livestock market license by removing the requirement to inform the Department of Livestock of all livestock markets withing a 200 miles radius of the applicant. This bill updates and modernizing language to move the state forward. 

            Signed on March 16, HB 85 Expand MEPA categorical exclusions sponsored by Marty Malone (R) HD 59 gives the DNRC the ability to exempt certain agricultural approvement activities from environmental review. HB 85 expands and clarifies the use of categorical exclusions to satisfy MEPA for low-impact activities like repairs and maintenance. HB 85 removes more red tape in the way of Montana’s farmers and ranchers, and allows them to do standard, low-impact maintenance and repairs without having to get environmental assessments. 

            Also signed on March 16, HB 86 Remove sunset for the Wildlife Habitat Improvement Program sponsored by Kenneth Walsh (R) HD 71 removes the program’s sunset scheduled for June 2023 and authorizes additional weed and soil treatment options. Passed by the legislature in 2017, the Wildlife Habitat Improvement Program (WHIP) was passed to provide funds to restore ecologically important wildlife habitat by controlling noxious weeds. The work to create WHIP was led by the late Representative Kelly Flynn and has awarded 12 grants impacting an estimated 1.5 million acres of wildlife habitat. Controlling noxious weeds on all lands is important to Montana’s farmers and ranchers so they can continue to be good stewards of the land and we are happy to see Kelly’s work towards land stewardship continue. 

            In addition to the updates from Helena this week, Representative Ryan Zinke hosted a Farm Bill listening session at the Montana Farm Bureau Center in Bozeman and was attended by several representatives of Montana’s agricultural organizations. During the listening session, Zinke discussed a variety of issues impacting Montana agriculture such as Waters of the United States (WOTUS), crop insurance, struggles of first generation producers and trade. We want to thank Representative Zinke for taking the time to visit with Montana’s farmers and ranchers and look forward to working with him to make sure Montana agriculture’s priorities are included in the Farm Bill. You can read more about Zinke’s Farm Bill listening session here.  

For more legislative updates and details on these issues, follow our Live with Your Lobbyist broadcast each Friday at noon on our Montana Farm Bureau Facebook Page. 

Nicole Rolf is the Senior Director of Governmental Affairs and a rancher from Miles City, Montana. Nicole works closely with our Congressional delegation on national issues affecting Montana agriculture. Additionally, this is her eighth Montana Legislative Session, lobbying in Helena on behalf of MFBF members. She also works as the Southeastern Montana Regional Manager. Nicole can be contacted at

Rachel Cone is the Director of State Governmental Affairs for Montana Farm Bureau Federation. This is Rachel’s second session lobbying on behalf of Montana Farm Bureau. Rachel is involved throughout the interim session to track how bills will come to the session. Rachel focuses on water issues throughout the legislative session and lobbies on all topics impacting Montana Farm Bureau members. Rachel can be contacted at