Ag Looks at Legislature


The 65th Montana Legislature convened Monday, Jan. 2 in Helena. While the session is still in its infancy, committees are beginning to meet and legislators are introducing their first bills of the term. We’ve hit the ground running.
Here are some key agriculture issues that were introduced in committee this week.
Senate Bill 28: Allow Water Court review of certain DNRC decisions
Sponsored by Sen. Chas Vincent (R) SD-1 / Libby. Heard in Senate Judiciary committee, Wednesday, Jan. 4
This bill would allow the Montana Water Court to review certain decisions of the Montana Department of Natural Resources (DNRC). Currently in Montana, if a water right holder wishes to apply for a water right or make a change to an existing water right, they complete the process by going through the DNRC. If they aren’t satisfied with the final decision reached by the DNRC, they have the option of appealing the decision to their District Court.
SB 28 provides water right holders the option to appeal a DNRC decision directly to the Montana Water Court instead of the District Court.
Montana Farm Bureau members’ policy supports this bill. Our members feel the water court has the expertise in Montana water law to more effectively handle these appeals. District Judges often have no water law experience at all, and according a survey of District Judges conducted by the Montana Supreme Court, a majority of District Judges would like the ability to refer water right appeals directly to the Water Court.
Opponents to the bill raised concerns regarding the original purpose of the Water Court. The Water Court was created nearly 40 years ago solely to handle the adjudication of Montana water. The adjudication process is nearly a decade from completion, and many feel this bill will unnecessarily burden the Water Court with more responsibility. This, potentially, may further delay the adjudication process.
We also support the timely and efficient adjudication of Montana water. While Montana Farm Bureau supports SB 28, this is not a concern we take lightly. There should be careful consideration to ensure the adjudication process is still the primary priority for the Montana Water Court.
House Bill 126: Generally revise the Montana Pesticides Act.
Sponsored by Rep. Ray Shaw (R) HD-71 / Sheridan. Heard in House Agriculture Committee, Thursday, Jan. 4.
The intent of this bill is to revise the fees on certain pesticide applicator and dealer licenses, among other things. We recognize the Department’s need to adjust fees; costs have increased and the Department needs to be able to meet those costs in order to deliver the training and services needed by pesticide applicators and dealers. This bill also looks to adjust the proof-of-liability statute that applies to commercial applicators.
It’s a big bill, and after yesterday’s hearing, it’s likely there will be several amendments to it before it leaves the committee. Stay tuned as more details are worked out.
As always, you can get more details on any bill we mention in this column by visiting www.leg.mt.gov/, then navigate to the LAWS database and do a search by bill number.
Chelcie Cargill is Montana Farm Bureau Federation’s Director of State Affairs and a fifth-generation rancher from Sweet Grass County. In addition to lobbying full-time on behalf of farmers and ranchers, 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 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. The Montana Farm Bureau Federation is a non-partisan, non-profit, grassroots organization that represents 22,000 member families in Montana.

Speaking a little louder to food companies



Food companies and retailers face tremendous pressure to respond to consumer expectations on issues like animal care, environmental protection and the healthfulness and safety of products. Farmers understand this because they too face tremendous pressure to meet the same consumer expectations. In fact, agriculture has always adapted in response to market preferences.

Read more: Speaking a little louder to food companies

Pipelines Get Nod from President Trump



President Trump wasted no time issuing executive orders to move stalled pipeline projects forward; the Keystone XL and Dakota Access.

TransCanada filed a new application to complete the tri-state pipeline from Alberta to Nebraska, including a bypass in Montana for Williston Basin crude from the Bakken. The Army Corps of Engineers has been directed to expedite the decision to grant an easement beneath Lake Oahe in North Dakota for the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Read more: Pipelines Get Nod from President Trump

Zinke, Pruitt Respect the Rule of Law, Deserve Swift Confirmation

 
“America is a nation of laws, not of men and women.”
These words, spoken countless times throughout our nation’s history, should always be a guiding principle for policymakers in America. As citizens of this great nation, we must ask those who lead our country to respect the supremacy of law, as it’s only then that differences of opinion can coexist peacefully.
Two individuals recently selected to help lead our country embody this necessary characteristic, and we would be lucky to have their service.
I am pleased by President-elect Trump’s nomination of Montana’s Congressman, Ryan Zinke, to serve as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Interior, and Oklahoma’s Attorney General, Scott Pruitt, to serve as Administrator of the U.S Environmental Protection Agency. I have the privilege of knowing both individuals personally, and I believe they will continue to serve our country well in their new roles.
Congressman Zinke has been a steadfast supporter of responsible natural resource development, sensible environmental protections, balancing access to public lands with private property rights, and has worked tirelessly to maintain positive and productive relationships with tribal nations across Montana. And perhaps most importantly, I am confident Congressman Zinke will respect the legal limitations of his new post, and adhere to our nation’s lawmaking process. I look forward to his swift and decisive confirmation by the U.S. Senate.
I have the same hopes for the confirmation of Attorney General Pruitt.
Unfortunately, opponents of General Pruitt’s nomination see fit to misrepresent his work as Oklahoma’s Attorney General to rally opposition to his confirmation. In an attempt to portray him as an “out-of-touch extremist,” detractors characterize his opposition to certain Obama administration policy initiatives as “anti-science.” These claims couldn’t be further from the truth.
Under federal law, the states have a significant role to play in the realm of environmental protection. Throughout President Obama’s tenure in office, the EPA regularly ignored Congressional prescription of states’ environmental protection role. Legal challenges to unlawful regulations such as Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) and the so called “Clean Power Plan” are examples of General Pruitt standing up for the rights of his state when the EPA adopted public policy that circumvented the proper process.
It’s illogical to claim an individual is somehow opposed to scientific realities simply because they are dedicated to preserving the rule of law in our country. Public policy rooted in science must still be enacted through the proper channels, and in the United States, that means recognizing the reality that is the separation of powers and the principles of federalism.
Simply put, we all must play by the rules of the game. If we don’t, it’s just a matter of time before “the shoe is on the other foot,” and those championing unilateral policymaking one day become those voicing outrage the next.
Congressman Zinke’s and General Pruitt’s high regard for the rule of law in America is invaluable. I call on Senator Daines, Senator Tester and the rest of the U.S. Senate to support swift confirmation of both men to their new positions, as our nation is best served if they are allowed to get to work as soon as possible. A vote against confirmation is a vote against Montana.
Tim Fox is the Attorney General of Montana

NorthWestern’s Rising Taxes


NorthWestern Energy’s property tax payments are going up this year, not down. In fact, they are going up 10 percent.
NorthWestern’s property tax bills have made lots of headlines across Montana recently. We are the state’s largest property taxpayer, and our property taxes are one of our largest costs of doing business. As Montana’s largest provider of essential utility services, our prices are based on the cost of providing that service. Given that property taxes are a significant portion of our customers’ bills, it is extremely important that we manage our property tax costs for the benefit of our customers.

Read more: NorthWestern’s Rising Taxes

An Honor Serving Montana’s Small Business


It’s been a great honor and privilege serving Montana’s small business community over the last year as the SBA’s Region VIII Administrator. I take pride in the fact that I have traveled more than 10,000 miles visiting small businesses and community leaders in my six state region, which includes Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming.

Read more: An Honor Serving Montana’s Small Business

The Forgotten ‘us’ in Industry


The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) has been condemned by celebrities, activists and misinformed joiners from around the country. Many have bought into reporting and a perception which condemns the pipeline company and law enforcement. Coverage of the protest has painted a false and dangerously divisive narrative of what’s taking place near Cannon Ball and Bismarck. Just yesterday, a rally took place on the steps of the Montana capitol, and some are protesting the involvement of Montana law enforcement at the Dakota Access protest site. Similar protests have spread throughout the country in support of stopping the pipeline’s completion.

Read more: The Forgotten ‘us’ in Industry

Feds to “blacklist”, Halt Firms from Moving State to State

The man who argued that the federal government had the authority to block companies from moving operations from one state to another might soon be in charge of deciding which companies qualify for hundreds of billions of dollars in federal contracts — but not right away.
A federal judge has issued a preliminary injunction blocking implementation of the so-called “blacklisting” rule, which would require federal contractors and subcontractors bidding on jobs of $500,000 or more to publicly report any resolved, pending or alleged violations of 14 federal labor laws.

Read more: Feds to “blacklist”, Halt Firms from Moving State to State

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