State Government Affairs
By Rachel Cone
The third quarter of 2020 has brought a lot of excitement to this ever-changing year. We are all learning how to move through and navigate this year, from farming and ranching to interim work at the legislature. As fall arrives, weather is changing and calves are getting shipped out, we are bringing the close of the interim and looking forward to the start of 2021.
Since July and into the end of September, interim committees have discussed many topics to move business along and what 2021 might look like.
2021 Legislative Session
The timeliest discussion may be the 2021 Montana Legislative Session and what the Legislative Council has been discussing. The Legislative Council has met often in the past few months to elaborate on the possible scenarios of how to hold a legislative session amidst the Coronavirus. These scenarios depend highly on the status of the phase the state is in and range from a full, normal session to an entirely virtual session. The latest information from the Rules Subcommittee of the Legislative Council outlines possible rule changes to allow for more virtual engagement from legislators and the public should the decision be made to have a hybrid or virtual session.
The full committee will meet October 15, 2020 to discuss further 2021 Session Planning. Stay tuned for more information on the final decisions regarding what Montana Farm Bureau plans to do in the next session. Without a doubt the Montana Farm Bureau Team will be ready and able to represent you – the farmers and ranchers, the agriculturalists.
Revenue Interim Committee
The Revenue Interim Committee met in September to discuss many topics, including the HJ 35 Tax Study. The HJ 35 Tax Study committee also met during this period to discuss over eight subtopics within HJ35. After much discussion, only five were forwarded onto the committee – these included. HJ35-01 - Full inflation for mill levy limit; HJ35-02 - Property tax circuit breaker; HJ35-03 - Increase minimum corporate income tax to $200; HJ35-04 - Revise calculation of capital gains tax credit; HJ35-08 - Decouple from CARES Act net operating loss deduction provisions.
Once brought to committee in September, only HJ35-02: Property tax circuit breaker; and HJ35-03: Increase minimum corporate income tax to $200 were voted to recommend to be introduced to the 2021 Legislature. Montana Farm Bureau testified on HJ35-01 and voiced some concern for its lack of broadening the tax base for Montanans. It did not pass the committee.
Board of Livestock
The Board of Livestock has met twice this quarter, once in July and one in September. Many topics were discussed, including the updated plans for the new Montana Veterinary Diagnostic Lab, Brand Rerecord and the updates on the Department’s continuity during COVID-19.
The Board presented some new design layouts of the lab to be built. The design looks great. There was an update on a joint venture with the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Livestock – so that the Department of Ag will have space at this hall as well.
Please remember that Brand Rerecord is coming up in 2021. The Montana Department of Livestock will send out notices in December 2020, rerecord begins January 1, 2021 and ends December 21, 2021. There is more information on this on the Department of Livestock’s website.
Christine Brown discussed updates on the Montana Historical Society Centennial Farm and Ranch Program. Information was provided on the honorary program of 100+ year-old ranches. For more information, email Christine at Christine.firstname.lastname@example.org and visit https://mhs.mt.gov/education/MTCentFarmRanchProg
By Nicole Rolf
As 2020 rolls on, lackluster commodity markets continue to make farming and ranching a struggle. In response, Farm Bureau continues the push to include direct assistance for farmers and ranchers in the next COVID stimulus package. Farm Bureau has also advocated for replenishment of the CCC (Commodity Credit Corporation) to allow USDA the flexibility to fund necessary ongoing and future programs. Congress did fully replenish the CCC, when they passed the Continuing Resolution, HR 8337, which will fund the government through December 11.
USDA announced in early September, that another round of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program would be made available. CFAP2, as it is commonly referred to, includes many commodities that were left out of the first package. Farmers and ranchers are encouraged to apply at the website: www.farmers.gov/cfap or by reaching out to their local Farm Service Agency Office. The deadline for application is December 11.
MFBF continues our work at improving commodity markets. AFBF’s Cattle Market Working Group, of which Montana Farm Bureau’s President was a member, concluded their work in late September and released a report of their findings. For more information and details, visit: https://www.fb.org/newsroom/new-report-examines-cattle-market-issues-solutions
MFBF is supporting various legislation to make changes that will improve meat processing capacity and competition including the DIRECT Act, HR 7425, the RAMP-UP Act, HR 7490, and others.
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