By Rachel Cone and Nicole Rolf, Montana Farm Bureau Federation

            This week wrapped up 70 days and started the potential final stretch of this 68th Montana Legislative Session. As we approach the finish line, we wanted to provide an update on bills after the revenue transmittal deadline and on the state budget:

            The transmittal deadline for revenue bills passed this Tuesday which means if bills with fees applied did not leave their starting chamber, they are probably dead for this session. This paves the way for HB 2 General Appropriations Act sponsored by Llew Jones (R) HD 18, or the state’s budget bill, to wrap up. HB 2 is divided into six sections covering money appropriation to various state agencies. Those sections are: Section A: General Government, Section B: Health and Human Services, Section C: Natural Resources, Section D: Public Safety, Section E: Education, Section F: Long-Range. 

            Our attention goes the most to Section C which covers the budgets for many of the departments critical to Montana agriculture. The Departments of Agriculture; Livestock; Natural Resources and Conservation; Environmental Quality; and Fish, Wildlife and Park all fall under Section C and serve Montana’s farmers and ranchers in a variety of ways such as per capita fees, water rights, wildlife management and more. HB 2 takes an in-depth look at each department’s budgets to ensure there is proper funding for services but also for requests of additional funding from those departments. Highlights of funding asks include but are not limited to Conservation District Funding, funding for MAES, specifics for the Montana Veterinary Diagnostic Lab and the rehab for the Willow Creek Dam.

            Specific funding asks for the Department of Agriculture is an additional $4 million to their budget for present law adjustments, spending authority increases and “one-time-only” general fund requests. This increase would go to a variety of services like the State Grain Lab, lab equipment, various ag science services and more. You can view the full Department of Ag’s budget one-pager here

            Another budget important to our members is the Department of Livestock. Through Section C of HB 2, the Department of Livestock serves to control and eradicate animal diseases, prevent the transmission of animal diseases to humans, and to protect the livestock industry from theft and predatory animals. Some examples of budget items addressed are the Department of Livestock’s funding for the Livestock Loss Board and the Montana Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (MVDL) zoonotic testing. The Livestock Loss Board addresses the economic losses due to predators and takes proactive steps to decrease the risk of loss. The MVDL vet lab is the only AAVLD accredited, full-service vet lab in Montana and provides disease diagnostic support to veterinarians, livestock producers, companion animal owners, and the Department of Fish, Wildlife, & Parks, as well as many other state and federal agencies. The MVDL is critical to livestock disease prevention in Montana while also supporting the Animal Health Division and the Milk & Egg Bureau. MFBF is committed to ensuring these departments, along with other departments in Section C, receive adequate funding to support Montana agriculture while also gaining new tools and technology to better serve Montana’s farmers and ranchers. 

            HB 2 is a unique bill in the way to moves through the legislative process. Each of the sections mentioned at the start of the article meet for many weeks at the beginning of the session to address each of the budget requests. Each section has its own committee, once that committee takes action, the entire HB 2 is formed. The bill will go to the House Floor where representatives typically take an entire day to go through the bill. This happened a few weeks ago where the bill was heard on the floor for second reading, and eventually passed by the House body. HB 2 was then brought to Senate Finance and Claims heard at the end of Week 13. Once that committee takes action, this will go to the Senate Floor and it will again be heard in detail. Seeing this important bill getting through its journey and through the second chamber is a good indicator that the session is wrapping up. With only 20 days left, there is still work to be done!

For more legislative updates and details on these issues, follow our Live with Your Lobbyist broadcast each Friday at noon on our Montana Farm Bureau Facebook Page. 

Nicole Rolf is the Senior Director of Governmental Affairs and a rancher from Miles City, Montana. Nicole works closely with our Congressional delegation on national issues affecting Montana agriculture. Additionally, this is her eighth Montana Legislative Session, lobbying in Helena on behalf of MFBF members. She also works as the Southeastern Montana Regional Manager. Nicole can be contacted at

Rachel Cone is the Director of State Governmental Affairs for Montana Farm Bureau Federation. This is Rachel’s second session lobbying on behalf of Montana Farm Bureau. Rachel is involved throughout the interim session to track how bills will come to the session. Rachel focuses on water issues throughout the legislative session and lobbies on all topics impacting Montana Farm Bureau members. Rachel can be contacted at