Week four of the 68th Montana Legislature is working to accomplish the people’s business and we saw many bills continue their journey. Here is what your grassroots policy supported this week:

            Long-time friend and member of Montana Farm Bureau, Christy Clark, was confirmed on Thursday by the Senate Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation Committee to serve as Director for the Department of Agriculture (DOA). Her confirmation will now move to the Senate floor for a full confirmation vote, likely next week. Clark, who Governor Gianforte appointed last January, has served the DOA since 2015 in a variety of roles such as deputy director, agricultural science administrator, interim director and has done a fantastic job of running the DOA and highlighting important programs for agriculture. We look forward to continuing to work alongside her for the betterment of Montana’s farmers and ranchers.

            This week we saw several bills supported by MFBF advance through the legislature, some without any opposition. HB 212 Increase business equipment tax exemption sponsored by Josh Kassmier (R) HD 27 which increases the business equipment tax exemptions from $300,000 to $1 million passed through the House Taxation Committee with no opposition, bringing this important legislation one step closer to helping small businesses acquire more or better equipment. Following its passage out of the Taxation Committee, the bill was referred to the House Appropriations Committee, where MFBF and many other business groups supported it in a hearing again this week. In the Appropriations Committee, the fiscal impact of the legislation is considered. After further vetting, we expect it to continue its advancement through the process.

Other bills that advanced this week include HB 245 Revise tax credit for trades education and training sponsored by Sue Vinton (R) HD 56. With around a quarter of farms and ranches in Montana hiring out-of-family labor, the tax credit provided by HB 245 gives these farms and ranches a great incentive to provide training and education to those workers while bringing in more jobs to rural communities.SB 58 Increase landowner payment cap for block management sponsored by Steve Hinebauch (R) SD 18 also advanced this week. With a proud heritage of hunting in Montana, SB 58 is set to continue to support that history by doubling the block management program cap from $25,000 to $50,000 giving landowners more incentive to provide sportsman access to more hunting land. SB 58 passed through the Senate Finance and Claims Committee without any opposition.

This week saw the first of what we expect could be several pieces of legislation regarding foreign ownership of agricultural land. SB 203 Revise law for transfer of critical infrastructure and agricultural land sponsored by Kenneth Bogner (R) SD 19 prevents an entity from selling, leasing or renting agricultural land to a “foreign adversary.” This year, several Montana Farm Bureau members shared their concerns over agricultural land being bought by foreign governments, particularly those with strained relations with the United States. We support this bill as it fits within our grassroots policy and represents our membership’s concern over the ownership of agricultural land by an adversary foreign government.

Lastly, we encourage all Montana Farm Bureau members to join us February 6-7 for this year’s Calling on the Capitol. This year, we’ve combined all of Calling on the Capitols into one large event to elevate Farm Bureau’s visibility and influence in the Montana Legislature. We’ve got a full schedule including issue updates, agency meetings, face-to-face discussions with legislators and more. Don’t miss this opportunity to have a seat at the table with Montana’s decision-makers and boost your advocacy skills. View the schedule and get registered 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 nicoler@mfbf.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 rachelc@mfbf.org.