HB 286, Revise water right laws related to state water claims
Sponsored by Rep. Alan Redfield (R), HD 59, Livingston
HB 286, included in last week’s Boots on the Hill update, was amended heavily in the House Natural Resources Committee. While the bill’s intent has remained the same, it now clarifies that the state of Montana can only assert an ownership interest in a water right if the well or developed spring is located on trust land, put to use on trust land, and the state has exclusive rights in the groundwater development works (which is already required under state law). Farm Bureau’s support of the bill remains strong.
SB 299, Generally revise laws related to sage grouse conservation
Sponsored by Sen. Mike Lang (R), SD 17, Malta
MFBF has been committed to the goal of Montana’s Sage Grouse Conservation Program since its debut, actively working with the program to prevent the game bird from becoming listed under the Endangered Species Act. The program seeks to protect sage-grouse habitat through compensatory mitigation, in which private landowners are compensated for restoration, enhancement, and preservation projects to sage-grouse habitat. Such projects create credits that developers can then purchase to offset the damages their projects cause to sage-grouse habitat.
Though Farm Bureau members will likely be involved in the mitigation system as credit providers, the vitality of the rural communities they call home depends on development. Protecting greater sage-grouse cannot be prioritized over communities who are also at risk of becoming extinct. This program needs to be flexible, and recognize that a model will not consistently create accurate results. Developers cannot be so financially burdened by this program that they will not invest in our rural communities.
While we want to ensure management of the bird remains in Montana’s hands, our primary commitment remains in the hands of rural Montana’s citizens who make a livelihood producing fuel and fiber for the world; so Farm Bureau was happy to support SB 299 that clarifies that the program must equitably balance conservation and development together. SB 299 passed the Senate and was transmitted to the House this week.
SJ 16, Resolution urging federal country of origin labeling
Sponsored by Senator Al Olszewski, (R) SD 6, Kalispell
SJ 16 is a resolution urging Montana’s congressional delegation to again pursue a federal country of origin labeling rule for beef and pork products. This resolution came as the Senate Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation Committee’s response to SB 206. SB 206 would have required Montana retail businesses to post placards detailing origin information for beef and pork. MFBF opposed this bill because of the penalties and additional burden it placed on small, Montana businesses. It was tabled in committee and in its place; the committee brought forward SJ 16. In order to have an effective COOL rule for beef and pork, it must start at the federal level. SJ 16 encourages congress to work with USDA to establish and implement an industry led, WTO compliant COOL rule for U.S. beef and pork. MFBF supported this bill and it passed the Senate on a strong vote of 46-4.