Boots On The Hill: Successful Calling on the Capitol and members testify in hearings
By Rachel Cone and Nicole Rolf, Montana Farm Bureau Federation
The highlight of the week of February 6 was the Montana Farm Bureau Calling on the Capitol (COTC), which found 45 MFBF members in Helena to experience the legislative process. In past years, MFBF held separate events for county leadership, Young Farmers and Ranchers, Women's Leadership Committee, and general membership. This year MFBF combined the groups to hold an extremely successful Calling on the Capitol, which brought a large group of farmers and ranchers to the Capitol halls, for meetings with legislators, state leaders and agency directors.
Monday evening’s MFBF reception in the Capitol Rotunda allowed our members and their legislators to visit casually, with some members meeting their legislators for the first time. Tuesday was packed with activity, including a morning in the Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission Room where members heard from Attorney General Austin Knudsen, and directors and high-level staff from the Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks, Agriculture and Livestock. Lunch in the Old Supreme Court Chamber was followed by sitting in on the House and Senate Floor Sessions. Representative Russ Miner and Senator Wendy McKamey recognized the MFBF members seated in the galleries, which was an impressive moment for the legislative bodies and members. It was an honor for our members to sit down with Lieutenant Governor Kristen Juras in the Governor’s Reception Room. The group also had a lobbyist view of the Capitol Tour and enjoyed learning the history of this venerable building.
Having members in town was especially rewarding because we had a few who testified on the bills, sharing their personal stories with the committees.
HB 104 – MFBF Vice President Gary Heibertshausen testified in support of this bill in the Senate Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock Committee, which allows out-of-state pilots to fly over land beyond boarder counties (with permission) to do fox and coyote control. As an Alzada sheep rancher, Heibertshausen explained to the committee that predation from coyotes is a severe problem, and often the best and most effective management is from an airplane; however, there are not always enough willing pilots in an area. Having the state open this pool wider helps ranchers receive necessary predator control.
HB 100 – Becky Stuart, a Dillon sheep and cattle rancher, testified in the Senate Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock Committee in support of this bill related to helping ensure that disease testing of animals done by the Department of Livestock is conducted in a safe and thorough manner with the assistance of the livestock’s owner.
HB 158 – Ronan cattle rancher Josh Senecal testified in the House Agriculture Committee supporting HB 158, which updates state law to comply with the Federal Meat Inspection Act. This was an excellent opportunity for Senecal, who explained that he is a rancher who uses federal, state, and custom-exempt processing facilities. For Montana to keep its state meat inspection program, it's essential to stay up-to-date in compliance with federal law. This bill is vital to ranchers across the state because we enjoy a healthy mix of custom-exempt, state and federal plants. MFBF values the various services those businesses provide.
We were fortunate to have the Montana Television Network interview MFBF District 9 Director Scott Stoner about his experiences at COTC and MFBF's Senior Director of Governmental Affairs Nicole Rolf. This interview brought agricultural issues and our organization to a broader audience statewide.
It is Day 30 of the legislative session, with only 15 days left before the transmittal deadline. Many bills are ready for pick up, and we expect the dam to break and a flood of bills ready to come out over the next two weeks. Many bill drafts are on our watch list, and we are keeping an eye on them as they get scheduled for hearings.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com.
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