Legislative Update, Week 5
Legislative update for the week of January 18-22
BY Rachel Prevost and Kim Mangold
Bills that MFU supported this past week:
- SB 26 — Clarify use of tribal agreements for livestock producers within reservations. This bill is to make sure that those who have livestock loss, and use tribal land to run their cattle and livestock, they will not be exempt from the livestock loss program and the language is more inclusive. This bill was sponsored Sen. Butch Gillespie and heard in Senate Agriculture on Jan. 12 and passed unanimously out of the Senate Ag committee on Jan. 14. The bill was heard in the House Agriculture committee on Jan. 26, which MFU testified in support. The bill passed out of committee with a unanimous vote on Jan. 28.
- SB 27 — Allow multiplier reimbursement for loss of livestock. This bill cleans up the language and adds the multiplier for the livestock loss program, so that Montana ranchers have opportunity for livestock loss dollars. This bill is sponsored by Sen. Butch Gillespie. This bill was heard on Jan. 12 in Senate Agriculture and passed unanimously out of the Senate Ag committee on Jan. 14. The bill was heard in the House Agriculture committee on Jan. 26, which MFU testified in support.
- HB 2: MFU supported full funding for MAES and MSU Ag Extension and Agriculture Programs and to be included in the base budget funding included in HB 2. HB 2 is the budget bill for the Biennium and is sponsored by Rep. Llew Jones. This section of the bill was heard on Jan. 25 in the Joint Appropriations Subcommittee on Education.
Bills that MFU will support in the upcoming week (Feb. 1):
- HB 235 — Create nutrition incentive program for SNAP participants: The Double SNAP Dollars program allows for Montanans who face food insecurity to afford more local fruit and vegetables. State investment would not only provide stability for current operating sites (participating farmers markets and farm share markets), but also allow the program to improve food security for vulnerable families and improve health outcomes. Montana Farmers Union supports this bill because it will boost local food systems and prevent food insecurity among vulnerable Montanans. This bill is sponsored by Rep. Tom Welch and will be heard in the House Human Services committee on Feb. 3.
- SB 147 — Establish commercial property assessed capital enhancements program: This bill creates a financing program that would allow Montana producers to make energy efficiency upgrades to their property. Montana Farmers Union supports this bill because it encourages energy conservation practices and creates more jobs. This bill is sponsored by Sen. Mary McNally and will be heard in Senate Energy and Telecommunications committee on Feb. 2.
Budget bills that MFU will support in the coming week (Feb. 1):
- HB 14 – Long-Range Building Bonding Program: MFU will testify and provide public comment this upcoming week in support of full funding for the MT Veterinarian Diagnostic & Ag Analytical Labs.
Actions taken by committees on bills of interest:
- SB 58 –– Provide fund transfer for livestock losses. This bill adds $100,000 from the general fund to the livestock loss program and is a good bill that we support. It was heard on Jan. 14 in the Senate Agriculture committee and passed out of committee unanimously on Jan. 14. This bill was heard in Senate Finance and Claims on Jan. 27.
Actions taken on bills that MFU supported:
- HB 142 – Generally revise hemp laws: This bill will align the state rules, regulations, and definitions with federal rules, regulations, and definitions. Overall, this will allow for a current reflection of any rules and regulation changes that happen at the federal level to also be at the state level, helping to further the production of this high value commodity in Montana. The bill did not have any opponents. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Josh Kassmier. This bill was voted on in the House Ag committee on Jan. 21 and passed out of committee and 2nd reading on Jan. 27.
- HB 93 — Expand materials certified under noxious weed seed free program. This bill is sponsored by Rep. Kenneth Walsh and was heard on Jan. 14 in House Agriculture and MFU supported this bill. This bill was voted on in the House Ag committee on Jan. 21 and passed out of committee and has been transmitted to the Senate on Jan. 27.
- HB 94 –– Expand loan types in Montana Farmer Loan Repayment Assistance Program. HB 94 is a fixer bill for this loan fund that will now accurately reflect the real picture of student loans that includes both private and federal student loans. This bill is sponsored by Rep. Kenneth Walsh and was heard on Jan. 14 in House Agriculture. MFU supported this bill. This bill was voted on in the House Ag committee on Jan. 21 and this bill passed out of committee with a unanimous vote and has passed 2nd reading on Jan. 27.