Montana Farm Bureau members discussed issues and advocacy during the Montana Farm Bureau Summer Conference June 12-14 in Fairmont Hot Springs. The Issues workshop speakers covered three items of interest to farmers and ranchers—trucking regulations, the farm bill and Farm Service programs.

Bruce Holmes, with the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration, allayed rancher’s concerns about Hours of Service (HOS) and the Electronic Logging Device (ELD). Holmes explained the 150 air-mile agricultural commodity exemption and loading and unloading times are exempt. He explained you can drive all over the contiguous U.S. and don’t need an ELD if you’re driving covered a farm vehicle that weighs between 10,000 and 26,000 pounds hauling a commodity.

Holmes urged farmers and ranchers to go to the FMCSA website to get all of the details. “In many instances you will find that you are ag exempt,” he said.

The FSA panel discussed the alphabet of programs including the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), Livestock Forage Program (LFP) and the Livestock Indemnity Payments (LIP)—and the fact that qualifications for LIP payments following severe winter weather needs to be revised. The FSA also explained that their funding comes from the farm bill including the Ag Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC)

At the time of the conference, the Senate Agriculture Committee’s had just approved the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (S. 3042). Jesse Anderson, ag liaison for Senator Jon Tester, explained that the 1000-plus page document does not change the sugar program and crop insurance, plus programs such as PLC and ARC have been reauthorized. The bill includes money for broadband for rural areas and added that funding for Fort Keogh and Sidney ag research stations remains.

“Farm Bureau did an excellent job with their informative workshops. It was interesting to learn that ELD and HOS laws aren’t as restrictive as many think,” said Margaret Hebel of Dillon. “The idea you would have to have a CDL to haul rodeo horses shows that many people are misinformed on transportation issues. The HOS/EDL workshop certainly cleared up some misconceptions.”

Other workshops covered the rural economy and demographics and a round up of Extension programs including water quality testing and soil moisture testing, as well as a panel on working with the media. The Summer Conference is a time when advisory committees meet to discuss current agricultural issues and concerns and surface new ideas for policy development. These sessions provide information that may be considered when the committees discuss policy affecting farmers and ranchers.