The following Q&A is a report by Phillips County Farm  Bureau member Tom DePuydt. Tom serves on the American Farm Bureau's Federal Lands Issues Advisory Committee. Issue Advisory Committees gather farmers and ranchers from across the nation to share, serve, gather ideas and information that helps guide policy implementation and inspires grassroots policy development. This year, committees met virtually in late February.  
Tell us a little about yourself, your involvement in Farm Bureau, and the AFBF IAC on which you serve. 
My name is Tom DePuydt. Our family runs a diversified farm and ranch in Northern Montana.  Farm Bureau has provided a great avenue for myself, and others in agriculture, to voice the concerns we are facing in agriculture.  I could see the effectiveness of Farm Bureau, the values Farm Bureau holds, and the great respect Farm Bureau has across the nation and wanted to help Farm Bureau as Farm Bureau helps us. I serve on the Federal Lands Issue Advisory Committee (IAC), addressing current issues of Federal Lands which are mostly located in the western United States.

What were the most relevant topics you discussed in your IAC meeting and how do they relate to Montana? 
Forest management is one of several topics we are continually working to address.  Every summer we can see the problem, smell the problem, and feel the problem of improper forest management with the large forest fires around the nation affecting our lives in one way or another.  The financial impact of these fires is huge with the cost of fighting these fires.  The timber industry, which is part of the agriculture community,  if allowed, can help reduce the number and size of fires as well as give a great boost to the economy.

Did you surface any issues in need of further policy development? If so, what were those issues and what kind of policy do you suggest? 
The policies and Executive orders by the new administration are still a bit vague on how they will be implemented and what they really mean. There are still confirmation hearings to be held for some position such as the Secretary of the Department of the Interior.  Once we have a bit more clarity on what the administration’s goals or intentions may be, our policies may need to reflect any negative impact to Farm Bureau members.  One new Executive Order from President Biden is one referred to as the “30 X 30” order, with a goal to have 30% of the land conserved by 2030.  Many are unsure of what that means.  Are terms being redefined?  Does it mean 30% of the land is conserved or preserved, and in what fashion?  We need to be proactive in understanding these issues as they play out.
Anything else you’d like to share with the membership of Montana Farm Bureau Federation?
So many Montanans and many Americans are looking for truth in what is happening in our governments.  I, along with many others, have become weary of the large news media outlets.  I rely on Farm Bureau and their staff to keep our members informed to the actions happening in Helena and Washington that affect us in agriculture.  Ultimately, to hold and keep the values our country was created on, we as individuals must do something.  Individually, we need to give what we can to help keep our country.  It is a sacrifice, a term which has lost its meaning in this country.