Wes Jensen raises cattle with his wife and father near Circle, Montana. He serves on the Montana Farm Bureau state board of directors as a representative of District 6. Wes recently returned from the 2020 Montana Farm Bureau's Washington, D.C. Fly-In.

What an experience, so well-planned out and organized.  We met with American Farm Bureau staff, all of Montana’s congressmen, an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) water scientist concerning the new water rule, USDA Under Secretary’s Chief of Staff, plus seven department heads (ELD, EID traceability, endangered species), and the editor of Ag Pulse.  We also toured the Old Post Office building and the US Supreme Court building along with a lecture on how the Court functions.

The most impactful thing for me was sitting down with the water scientist at the EPA and having the new rules explained.  It took five years to get WOTUS reversed and corrected and states given back the rightful jurisdiction of their water. The overreach was monumental. Without the relentless effort of the Farm Bureau it may never have been changed.  The water scientist also explained how they have clarified the definitions of navigable waters, wetlands, etc., so we will not be looking at this type of overreach again.  It was reassuring to see that when allowed to, the system works.

We were able to sit down with the staff of one of the Under Secretaries of the USDA along with seven department heads… quite impressive for a small delegation of farmer/ranchers from Montana. They were attentive and interested in our input as well as informative regarding issues surrounding electronic identification (EID) and traceability, electronic logging devise (ELD) requirements for ag transport, and endangered species. 

I realized just how important it is to respond to the alerts sent to us, not only by the American Farm Bureau, but our own Montana Farm Bureau. Don’t underestimate the importance of personal comments, whether written or face to face shared with our congressmen. We may never know when a personal comment might actually change the direction of a law or policy.

You might ask what kind of impact was gained by our meetings? I don’t know if you can ever know for sure, but I do know when you have a face-to-face conversation about a topic and the context of the discussion is understood by both sides, everyone comes away with new knowledge and understanding. You can be sure of one thing, everyone we met with is very good at their job and has the ability to shape policy.  But they are no different than you and I in that their conclusions are based on information they have received.  So if we don’t show up, someone else will.

The D.C. fly-in was a great experience and I very much appreciate the opportunity.  I went hoping to make a positive impression for Montana agriculture, but did not expect the positive impact it would make on me.