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Open doors, opportunities for change

Open doors, opportunities for change
Montana Farm Bureau members Wes Jensen, JM Peck and Gary Heibertshausen at the nation's capitol to discussion agricultural issues with policy makers and agency leaders.

Gary Heibertshausen serves as the vice president of Powder River/Carter Co. Farm Bureau and the District 5 Director on the Montana Farm Bureau Federation Board. He raises sheep near Alzeda, Montana, with his wife Joyce.

I am thankful that I was encouraged to fill out the application to attend the 2020 Montana Farm Bureau's Washington, D.C. Fly-In. I was glad to have the opportunity to see a little bit of how our nation’s capital functions.

 We were fortunate enough that our visit overlapped the current REAL Montana class’s visit to D C. Our first evening we spent time with the young folks and enjoyed a short visit with some of the up and coming natural resource leaders in Montana.

The next morning we started the day at the offices of the American Farm Bureau.  Several of the American Farm Bureau staff members gave us updates on issues pertinent to ag in Montana and across the U. S., including the updated Waters of The U. S., inheritance tax, new purposed H-2A rules, Endangered Species update, electronic logging devises (ELD), and livestock identification.

Later that day we visited the offices of our Congressmen, to first off thank them for what they have done that has helped Montana agriculture. Then, we sat down with them and some of their staff to voice some of our concerns. We were given some insight on up and coming congressional bills.

Our second day we hit the ground running. We first met with Philip Brasher, an editor from Agri-Pulse. He gave us a rundown on the how, who, what and where’s of how items work their way into news highlights with Agri-Pulse. One of the interesting points was all the folks who basically go to or have offices close to different governmental offices.

After that visit, we were off to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). I have been to D.C. before, and the EPA doors were never as open as they were this time. We met with Megan who works with pesticides, Thomas who is in the agricultural division, and Owen the Senior Science Advisor who works with the WOTUS rules. Each gave us updates on current and upcoming items. Owen broke down parts of the WOTUS rules that we had questions with and explained how the EPA see the ruling work in theory. Our next visit was with the USDA where we met with no less than eight folks from different departments within the USDA including Chief of Staff Loren Walker. Our visit was filled with discussion on animal identity tags, brucellosis, wasting disease, and check off programs.

I want to mention that at every one of these offices we felt welcome. Our congressional folks and governmental offices were interested in what we had to say and how we thought as farmers and ranchers rules and regulations would be interrupted.

We had some free time late in the afternoon so we took a tour of the Supreme Court building. Very interesting and a lot of history inside those walls. We watch a movie and listened to how the court was built and operated. No cameras inside the courtroom. The last day before our flight out we had free time. Wes and I decided to go through the Holocaust Museum. I would challenge anyone to go through this exhibit and not be moved; it’s not possible.

In closing, I would like to thank the Montana Farm Bureau for giving me this opportunity to take this trip. As an organization we are blessed to have such a hard working staff to help arrange enlightening trip like this for our members. Because of our staff members like Nicole, who our congressional members and staff know on sight by name, the Montana Farm Bureau enjoy several open doors when we go to D C.