Washington, D.C. —Montana Farm Bureau Federation’s (MFBF) members headed to the nation’s capital last week for American Farm Bureau Issues Advisory Committee Meetings (IAC) and to meet with their Congressmen. MFBF Senior Director of Governmental Affairs Nicole Rolf was joined by Tom DePuydt, Federal Lands Committee; Jillien Streit, Farm Policy and Wes Jensen, Market Structures.

The group visited Capitol Hill, where they met with Senator Jon Tester, Senator Steve Daines, and the staff of Congressmen Matt Rosendale and Ryan Zinke. The 2023 Farm Bill topped the list of topics the group discussed with the leaders.

“We were able to share the thoughts of our Farm Bureau’s farmer and rancher members," said Wes Jensen, a Circle rancher and past MFBF District 6 Director. "The farm bill was prevalent, and we discussed concerns about the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). We’d like to see a change to the policy that currently has a 25 percent maximum of land in county that can be put in CRP. We believe instead of one entire piece of land in one county being in CRP, it should be done individually, keeping the good lands in production and the less productive ones in CRP.”

Jensen said his committee discussed more significant picture issues, like international trade, foreign agricultural land ownership, transportation and supply chain issues, and federal milk marketing order reform. 

“The meetings provided a heads up to remind people to ensure a safety net is maintained during the next crafting of the farm bill,” said Jensen. “We also heard updates on livestock policy including new Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration revisions.”

Tom DePuydt, a Saco rancher, chaired the Federal Land Committee. While most members were western ranchers, a few were from the timber industry.

“Serving as the committee chair enabled me to visit with all of my committee members and talk to our speakers from the House and Senate Ag Committees and the House and Senate Natural Resource Committees. I’m amazed by the knowledge our committee members have dealing with different government agencies and interacting with American Farm Bureau staff. During this meeting, I realized the importance of these relationships."

Concerns were raised about losing private property to acquisitions by the federal government and lack of funding for grazing lands restoration, as well as the 30 x 30 “American The Beautiful” Executive Order by President Joe Biden. There are still many unknowns with that order.

"It was a learning experience to listen to these issues. There was plenty of round table discussion, and we can move forward from what we have learned and what AFBF could address," said DePuydt.

“Bringing farmers and ranchers to D.C. to talk about how Farm Bureau’s priority issues in the 2023 Farm Bill impacts them is incredibly valuable,” said Rolf, who has been bringing members to the IAC meeting for many years. “We appreciate that both of our Senate offices welcomed us for a meeting and it was exciting to visit not one, but now two Representatives’ offices. I am encouraged by the level of excitement surrounding getting a new farm bill done in a timely process and Montana Farm Bureau will continue to engage on this and other important issues.”