Giving thanks in November isn’t a difficult task for farmers and ranchers. After all of the calves have been weaned and shipped and next year’s unseen calf crop grows in the empty pastures - after the last crop is out of the ground and the soils lay bare earnestly awaiting the next seeding, farmers and ranchers across the state cannot help but feel thankful for the year’s harvest.
November is a month of gratitude for Montana Farm Bureau as well. MFBF concluded its annual policy work during our convention in Billings November 7-11. Though the four-day convention always involves exciting events, speakers, and workshops, the most imperative part of our time together is the delegate process. 150 members from farms and ranches across Montana have the opportunity to voice their opinions and shape the policies that will guide MFBF in the future.
The voting delegates considered 83 policy resolutions this year; 73 to add new policy to the MFBF book and 10 amending or deleting existing policies. Additionally, there were 5 resolutions proposed for submission to the American Farm Bureau Federation and 2 inter-organizational resolutions. Inter-organizational resolutions are an opportunity for a county Farm Bureau to communicate directly with the MFBF Board of Directors and ask for the support or pursuance of an idea or program. Each of these policies came from the county-level. Before a policy may be discussed on the delegate floor, it first has to be voted on and forwarded by a county Farm Bureau. 18 of the 30 county Farm Bureaus across the state proposed policy this year with many counties submitting multiple resolutions.
If a member has a policy they’d like added to the book, or a current policy they feel needs amending, they must first propose it as a policy resolution at their county’s policy development meeting. If a county Farm Bureau doesn’t have a policy meeting, resolutions are presented at their county’s annual meeting. Once ideas have been presented, other members in the county can debate, discuss and perhaps assist in refining the language, if needed.
No county Farm Bureau may forward resolutions to the state office without first voting on and approving them at their county annual meeting. Policies are then reviewed by the Policy Development Committee and prepared for debate and discussion on the delegate floor at annual convention. Once at annual convention, voting delegates from each county spend two days pouring over the policy resolutions, discussing, amending, and ultimately passing or failing each resolution.
Of the MFBF policy resolutions considered at convention this year, the voting delegates passed 60, while 23 either failed or were condensed into another policy. A broad range of issues were covered within those 60 policies – everything from broadband to livestock to taxation. MFBF passed multiple policies directed towards the “fake meat” debate, taking a stance on labeling and regulation of such products. Voting delegates also confirmed their opposition to a mandatory statewide fire-preparedness assessment fee – a subject that will be considered in the upcoming legislative session. Another issue likely to breed legislation in the upcoming session is the eligibility for agricultural valuation of land parcels of less than 160 acres. Farm Bureau members passed policy that states our support of eligibility being contingent only on generating at least $1500 annual gross revenue from agricultural products produced on the land with no minimum size of acreage.
Multiple policies concerning water were discussed and finalized as well, including two policies that specified the funding of aquatic invasive species as a statewide issue to guarantee the long-term water quality of the State of Montana. Also discussed within the realm of water issues, was the water rights change process. Delegates voted in favor of supporting efforts to simplify the lengthy, complicated process while also protecting senior water rights. One of the two AFBF resolutions that passed and will be forwarded to the AFBF Policy Development Committee concerned MFBF’s support of the immediate and total repeal of the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule. And both of the two proposed inter-organizational resolutions passed and were presented to the MFBF Board at their post-convention meeting.
After all of the policy resolutions have been considered and the additions and revisions await printing in the new policy book, Montana Farm Bureau is thankful for the grassroots process that makes our organization so powerful. We have the collective voices of Montana’s farmers and ranchers written on those pages. MFBF is guided by each of the policy decisions and stances that our farming and ranching members make. It gives true testament to the statement, “We are the Voice of Agriculture”.
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