The following Q&A is a report by Hill-Liberty-Blaine Counties Farm Bureau member Megan Hedges. Megan serves on the American Farm Bureau's Farm Policy 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.

Megan Hedges in 2020 Farm Policy IAC meeting.

I am a fourth generation farmer who got into the business of crop insurance about four years ago and have found this opportunity to offer risk management solutions to farmers and ranchers equally as rewarding as farming itself.  I am now the agent/owner of Northern Plains Insurance in Chester.  My husband and I have three little rugrats that keep us entertained, Eliza (7), Brody (6), and Stella (2). I have always been passionate about promoting and supporting the agriculture industry. This is my third year as President of the Hill-Liberty-Blaine Counties Farm Bureau. I have served on the Farm Policy Issues Advisory Committee (IAC) since 2018.  

What were the most relevant topics you discussed in your IAC meeting and how do they relate to Montana?
Topics discussed in the Farm Policy IAC meeting centered largely around the transition to a new administration, what the new administration's emphasis will be moving forward and how America Farm Bureau Policy aligns with this in mind. Most of the focus was on climate control and environmental justice, since those have shown to be of significant interest to the new administration. AFBF anticipates Waters of the US (WOTUS) will be back on the table for discussion.

Conservation Compliance was a topic that I felt could significantly impact Montana's farmers and ranchers. Don Parish, the chair for the Environmental IAC reiterated twice that "most people don't have a problem with conservation compliance until they have a problem with conservation compliance." There is not necessarily a due process when a farmer is turned in as being "out of compliance." Evidence and circumstance are rarely taken into consideration.  Most importantly, once one is found to be out of compliance, it is very difficult to get to a point where compliance is again approved, and in the meantime, it could be financially devastating to a farm or ranch. All of USDA farm program payments are associated with being "in compliance," this includes Federal Crop Insurance subsidies and this year's CFAP payments.  

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?
AFBF recognizes this concern and is working hard with USDA to establish a mitigation process.    

Anything else you’d like to share with the membership of MFBF?
I always look forward to meeting the passionate, like-minded farmers from across the nation that serve on this committee. It was unfortunate that these meetings were held via Zoom this year, however it did allow me the opportunity to participate in another set of Zoom meetings this same week as I participated in the Department of Ag's, Ag Development Council's Growth Through Ag Grant proposal/distribution process. This was my first grant review process since being appointed to the Council in December.