Four Montana Farm Bureau members traveled to Washington, D.C. to attend the American Farm Bureau Issues Advisory Committee meetings and visit with senatorial offices. Members included Tonya Rolf Liles, a cattle rancher from Terry, Animal Care Committee; Megan Mattson Hedges, a grain farmer from Chester, Farm Policy Committee; Chuck Rein, a rancher from Big Timber, Federal Lands Committee; and Don Steinbeisser, Jr., a diversified farmer from Sidney, Environmental Regulations Committee.
The Animal Care Committee addressed some of the current national lawsuits including nuisance lawsuits against swine farms and R-CALF USA's beef checkoff lawsuit.
“They wanted input from the different states regarding various lawsuits to decide if AFBF should pursue them,” said Liles. “In addition, we talked about cell-cultured protein products and how to ensure the US Department of Agriculture regulates them. We talked about the Green New Deal and how the EPA would to handle that. In addition, we covered animal traceability. We agreed there is a need for traceability, but there must be a way to keep personal information confidential.”
Chuck Rein said the Federal Lands Committee had two prevalent topics. “The number-one discussion was regarding fire: the speakers covered prevention, what do during the fire and then after. We talked about what caused the problem, as well as how to mitigate getting permits to access an area when there are fallen burned trees across the roads. There wasn’t a concrete answer developed, but the meeting provided a good opportunity to voice our concerns. Wild horses and burros were the number-two topic. We learned the BLM has 55,000 wild horses and burros and that it is costing $48,000 per head to feed these horses. We talked about ranchers possibly adopting some of the horses and getting paid to take care of them.”
The Farm Policy Committee conversation was a continuation of last year’s regarding the farm bill.
“Last year we were discussing what needed to be in the farm bill; this year there were a lot of questions about implementation, timelines and funding changes,” said Megan Mattson Hedges. “There was a lot of talk about growing hemp, such as would there be crop insurance and whether it could be planted on a lot of those tobacco acres.”
“Having a seat at the table is vital for Montana,” said Hedges. “I might not be the expert on all of our issues but I was the only wheat producer at the table. That’s imperative for our state.”
Steinbeisser said one of the main topics discussed by the Environmental Regulations Committee was dicamba and the trouble Arkansas farmers had with lawsuits surrounding that crop protectant. “We talked about making sure there was a way to shorten the time period for completing the Environmental Impact Statement on pesticides. Sometimes it takes 10-12 years. We addressed some of the irrigation concerns in different states. Arizona has a lot of dust trouble. In fact, they’re threatening to shut down farming completely in some areas because of the dust.”
During the time Washington, the group visited Senator Steve Daines’ office. “We visited with Dan Gerig Senator Daines’ Ag Legislative Assistant. Trade was number-one issue we discussed, and the importance of the U.S. Mexico Canada Free Trade Agreement and what an important issue it is in Montana especially in the northern part of the state with grain,” said Hedges. “However, our visit with him really ran the gamut of ag issues.”
Steinbeisser had the opportunity to visit with Senator Tester’s staff. “I told them about the importance of trade, especially the upcoming USMCA, and talked about the importance of funding our Agricultural Research Stations in Montana.”