WASHINGTON, D.C. – Visits with state Farm Bureau leaders, public policy staff and federal agencies highlighted the summer meeting season last week as Montana Farm Bureau President Cyndi Johnson and Senior Governmental Affairs Director Nicole Rolf attended the American Farm Bureau Council of Presidents and Public Policy Conference. Additionally, a group of western state Farm Bureau presidents met with officials from the Department of the Interior, including the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Bureau of Reclamation regarding regulatory concerns about endangered species and public lands grazing, water infrastructure, and more.

“During the Public Policy Conference, my colleagues from across the country and I had a chance to meet, listen to, and ask questions of a wide range of professionals. A meeting with Rod Snyder, agricultural advisor to EPA Administrator Michael Regan, proved to be insightful as he shared his overview of EPA policies and direction,” said Rolf. “We met with staffers from the House and Senate who provided their perspective of what we can expect to see through the end of this Congress, which helps determine what policy priorities Farm Bureau should address before the end of the year.”

Eight western state presidents and their public policy staff visited with BLM Director Tracy Stone-Manning, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services Director Martha Williams and senior staff from the Bureau of Reclamation.

“I appreciate that the folks for DOI took well over an hour to visit with western state Farm Bureau presidents who were able to attend since so many of the issues our members face are under the Department of Interior’s jurisdiction. We were able to raise questions about how the BLM can be more responsive to grazing leases when there is a change in range conditions,” explained Rolf. “Our group asked for an update on the BLM’s Land Use Plans with regard to Sage Grouse, as many of our states submitted comments during the last scoping period. They are actively going through those comments and we should be seeing next steps soon. When discussing anticipated new grazing rules, we were encouraged to be vocal and advocate for our member’s needs, which you can rest assured Montana Farm Bureau will do. The group visited with the Bureau of Reclamation staff about irrigation and water storage. We covered a wide range of issues and had a good dialogue.”

The Council of President’s meeting brought in a wide range of experts and elected officials, ranging from Cabinet members to political analysts. Conrad wheat farmer and MFBF President Cyndi Johnson had many takeaways from those presentations. 

“EPA Administrator Michael Regan said his agency is reviewing their policies to ensure they are doing the correct actions within their boundaries. Although he didn’t directly talk about reverting back to the Obama-era Waters of the U.S., the fact that agency is looking at their current practices is promising,” Johnson said.

“Texas Congressman Kevin Brady expressed his admiration for Farm Bureau,” added Johnson. “The Congressman believes there is no better grassroots organization than Farm Bureau, as they’re fearless and not afraid to tackle tough issues. Because of that, they deliver. He shared concerns about the Build Back Better legislation still being alive in the Senate, noting that it will increase taxes by an additional 11 percent, creating more pain in an already hurting economy. He added that the U.S. needs to sell American all over the world, but be very vigilant regarding our enforcement of trade agreements with other countries. 

“Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack talked about the upcoming farm bill and the USDA approving double cropping in the Midwest for soybeans and sorghum, although we could definitely use that in Montana, as well. We could grow flax with chickpeas and use that for pest and disease control so you wouldn’t have to spray for weeds and insects,” Johnson said.

Johnson found the presentation by political strategist Bruce Mehlman timely as he covered current political trends. “He stressed how important it is for farmers and ranchers to share their messages about their desires and concerns, and explained how politics has drastically changed over the past 30 years due to the advances in technology and our ability to communicate. He noted that the upcoming mid-term elections could be interesting, but farmers and ranchers should not let their guard down even if the results are to their liking.”

According to Rolf, Farm Bureau has the attention of governmental agencies and Congressional members.  “I feel fortunate that Montana Farm Bureau has a great relationship with our Senate and House offices. Nationwide, the Farm Bureau name has an impact. Farm Bureau has shown it can be effective under either political party, as we stick to the issues and work hard for our members and the grassroots policy they enact. Farm Bureau makes a difference where we can, and it is paying off.”