Boots on the Hill: Grizzly Bear Delisting, Fire Suppression Funding, Electric Vehicles, Penalties for Uninspected Livestock and MFBF in Washington, D.C.
By Rachel Cone and Nicole Rolf, Montana Farm Bureau Federation
As the transmittal deadline approaches, the Montana legislature is picking up speed to ensure the remaining bills make it through their originating chamber before the deadline arrives on March 3. Here are a few of the issues we worked on last week:
The effort to delist the grizzly bear picked up steam as SB 295 Revising laws to accommodate grizzly bear delisting sponsored by Bruce Gillespie (R) SD 9 was heard in the Senate Fish and Game Committee on Tuesday. SB 295 outlines FWP’s ability to manage the grizzly bear population at an appropriate and sustainable level. It also allows a managed and limited take of grizzly bears if they come in conflict with livestock or threaten human safety. The Fish and Wildlife Commission will work with Montanans to implement a management plan and continue communication with livestock owners should the need for taking a grizzly bear arise. SB 295 provides further proof the state of Montana is prepared to handle grizzly bear populations when the bruins are removed from the Endangered Species List.
The past few years of drought have drastically added to the issue of wildfires in Montana. According to the Montana DNRC, 1,954 fires burned 122,503 acres in the 2022 wildfire season, which reflects a much lighter fire season than previous seasons. Despite this, last year's season showed the need for more proactive approaches to fighting fires in Montana, and HB 424 Generally revise the sustainability of state finance and provide for transfers sponsored by Llew Jones (R) HD 18 provides the Montana Fire Suppression Fund with more budgetary tools to suppress and prevent wildfires. HB 424 raises the cap on proactive, preventative project expenditures from $5 million to $25 million for the Fire Suppression Fund. This is particularly helpful for Montana farmers and ranchers as it provides funding for wildfire mitigation and prevention projects, firefighting vehicles, and other supplies needed to suppress wildfires.
This week we discussed electric vehicles (EVs) paying a fair share to maintain roads in Montana. HB 60 An act providing for an annual fee on electric vehicles registered in the state, and HB 439 Create a GVW fee for electric vehicles and hybrids being permanently registered, both sponsored by Denley M. Loge (R) HD 14, look to apply higher registration fees for EVs and hybrid vehicles on annual and permanent vehicle registrations. All vehicles registered in Montana pay a registration fee. Part of that fee, along with dollars collected through the fuel tax, goes to maintaining county, state, and federal roads throughout the state. HB 60 and HB 439 would raise EV and hybrid vehicles’ annual and permanent registration fees to ensure that EV and hybrid vehicles are paying their fair share in maintaining Montana’s roads.
Protecting Montana livestock herds from disease outbreaks is of utmost importance to our organization. HB 388 Increase penalty for uninspected livestock sponsored by Josh Kassmier (R) HD strengthens our ability to prevent livestock disease from spreading throughout the state. HB 388 increases the fine for bringing livestock into the state without a health certificate. The fine ranges from $500 to $5,000 and provides another tool for the state in preventing livestock disease outbreaks.
MFBF continues our work on the federal level. MFBF Senior Director of National Affairs Nicole Rolf brought three MFBF members to Washington, D.C., for the American Farm Bureau Issues Advisory Committee (IAC) Meetings and meetings on Capitol Hill. Wes Jensen, Tom DePuydt, and Jillien Streit served on advisory committees dealing with market structures, federal lands, and farm policy, respectively, to ensure Montana has a voice in the decisions being made at the national level.
Along with participating in IAC meetings, we also had the opportunity to meet with all four of Montana’s congressional offices to discuss Montana’s priorities for the 2023 Farm Bill. We took the opportunity to express Farm Bureau’s support for Senator John Boozman's (R-AR), and Representative Frank Lucas' (R-OK) Protect Farmers From The SEC ACT. This legislation would prohibit the SEC from requiring Scope 3 reporting from farms and ranches under their proposed climate reporting rule. Our members shared the importance of this legislation, providing specific examples of how the SEC rule would negatively affect their farms, ranches and rural communities.
There is tremendous value in bringing farmers and ranchers to Washington, D.C., and we appreciate our members' willingness to travel to our nation’s capital and tell their stories.
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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