It’s been 16 months since Montana Farm Bureau leaders headed to Washington, D.C. to attend important meetings, instead turning to their computers to continue the dialogue. Montana Farm Bureau President Hans McPherson and Vice President Cyndi Johnson traveled to the capital city July 12-14, 2021 for American Farm Bureau’s Council of Presidents. Fifty state Farm Bureau presidents, along with Puerto Rico, gathered together to discuss essential agricultural issues and meet with top agency personnel.

“We received updates from American Farm Bureau staff regarding immigration, labor, and livestock issues, as well as the right to repair your own farm machinery, infrastructure and taxes,” noted McPherson. “The key takeaway is Farm Bureau is a non-partisan organization and we are committed to advocating for agriculture with whomever is in control. Now it’s the Biden Administration, and it was informative to learn what they view as positive changes and things they plan to do for agriculture.”

The group heard from EPA Administrator Michael Regan, Department of Agriculture Deputy Director Jewel Bronaugh, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai, Chair of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Ranking Ag Committee member Senator John Boozman (R-AR).

“We talked about the harm in reinstating Water of the U.S., and the clarity farmers need for changing those water rules again,” said McPherson.

During their time in D.C., McPherson and Johnson visited the Montana Congressional Delegation, visiting with Senator Steve Daines, talking with Senator Jon Tester and his staff, and discussing issues with Representative Matt Rosendale’s staff.

“We certainly thanked them for their work in D.C., with one specific issue we covered was expanding the distance a rancher can go with his semi and still not need a CDL,” McPherson said.  “Because of the drought, our ranchers are going to have to drive a lot farther than 200 miles for hay. It’s a federal issue, so that rule needs to be changed on a federal level.”

Drought was on everyone’s mind at the meeting, especially with presidents from the western states. “There are many creative ideas discussed about what we could do to help our livestock producers deal with the drought and hay shortage,” said Johnson. 

“One idea was to have the grain reserves, as well as government powdered milk reserves, be used for animal feed and then replenished. We learned that many state presidents have been in close contact with all of their county presidents to develop ideas of getting through the drought. We discussed Farm Bureau’s Farm State of Mind resource to help farmers and ranchers across the country find mental health resources in their states.”

Johnson and McPherson agreed it was great to be meeting in person again. “It’s so good to spend time with other leaders across the country face-to-face and share concerns, ideas and simply catching up,” concluded McPherson.