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YOUR BOOTS ON THE HILL: The decision makers of 2017

You’ve heard the expression, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”

We know this is true. In the life of an idea becoming legislation, there are a few key people that you need to know in order to make your voice for agriculture most effective.

In last week’s column, we talked about the importance of using this time before the 2017 Montana Legislature goes into session to “prep the soil” and get to know your local elected officials. While it is important to have a relationship with your own legislators, they may not be on the committee you need to be chatting with. So, it’s time to expand your circle of influence.

Here’s why: bill drafts may be requested by any legislator. Once the bill is introduced, it is referred to a committee for its first hearing. If the bill passes its first committee, it gets sent to the floor of the respective house for debate and a vote. Once the bill has been passed by the committee and floor of the first House, it is transferred to the second House and the process starts all over again in that House’s committee.

In order for an idea to become law it has to make its way through both its pertinent House and Senate committees. This is where citizens can come to testify and have their voices heard on an issue.

So let’s cut to the chase. These are the people you need to know on the committees that are most likely to impact Montana agriculture:

  • Senate Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock: Sen. Brian Hoven is chair. Email: brian@hovenequipment.com, phone: (406) 761-8533. Secondary phone: (406) 727-7158.

  • Senate Fish and Game: Sen. Jennifer Fielder is chair. Email: Sen.Jennifer.Fielder@mt.gov

  • Senate Natural Resources: Sen. Chas Vincent is chair. Phone: (406) 293-1575

  • Senate Taxation: Sen. Mark Blasdel is chair. Email: Sen.Mark.Blasdel@mt.gov, phone: (406) 261-3269. Secondary phone: (406) 857-2010.

  • Senate Finance and Claims: Sen. Llew Jones is chair. Email: Sen.Llew.Jones@mt.gov, phone: (406) 271-3104. Secondary phone: (406) 289-0345.

  • House Appropriations: Rep. Nancy Balance is chair. Email: nancyballance@aol.com. Phone: (406) 363-8416. Secondary phone: (406) 363-7210.

  • House Agriculture: Rep. Alan Redfield is chair. Email: Rep.Alan.Redfield@mt.gov. Phone: (406) 220-1247.

  • House Fish, Wildlife and Parks: Rep. Kelly Flynn is chair. Email: Rep.Kelly.Flynn@mt.gov. Phone: (406) 459-7382. Secondary phone: (406) 266-3322.

  • House Natural Resources: Rep. Kerry White is chair. Phone: (406) 587-3683.

  • House Taxation: Rep. Jeff Essman is chair. Email: jessmann@mt.gov (406) 534-3345


We suggest printing this list of important names out and sticking it to your fridge, hanging it in your office or filing it near your phone book for quick and easy access. When you hear or read of an issue that you are passionate about or effected by, take five minutes to make a phone call to the appropriate committee chair.

It’s also valuable to check out the entire makeup of these committees. Some legislators may not have an agricultural background and would benefit from farmers or ranchers helping them understand the issues. Find a full listing of committee members here.

You can also follow committee hearings throughout the process and track hearing dates on the state legislative website.

The Senate and House leadership is also important to the success or failure of a piece of legislation. The Speaker of the House Austin Knudsen and President of the Senate Scott Sales are responsible for scheduling when bills will be heard on the floor of their respective houses.

Chelcie Cargill is Montana Farm Bureau Federation’s Director of State Affairs. She’s an expert in policy development and implementation, and serves as MFBF’s staff coordinator for its Water and Animal Health Committees. Chelcie is a fifth-generation rancher from Sweet Grass County, Montana. In addition to lobbying full-time on behalf of farmers and ranchers across Montana, Chelcie and her husband are growing their own herd of commercial cattle and a professional fencing business. Chelcie can be contacted at (406) 587-3153 or chelciec@mfbf.org.

The Montana Farm Bureau Federation is a non-partisan, non-profit, grassroots organization that represents 22,000 member families in Montana.