Thursday, March 9, 2017/Categories: General News, Grains, Opinions
This week, the House Agriculture Committee heard what was arguably one of the most important pieces of legislation to agriculturalists in Montana. Senate Bill 155—Prohibit Local Regulation of Agricultural Seed – aims to provide consistency in our state’s seed laws and protect the private property rights of Montana’s family farmers and ranchers. This is a piece of legislation written as a result of collaboration among Montana’s leading agricultural organizations and their grassroots memberships.
Those organizations are made up of farmers and ranchers like me. My nieces and nephews are the fifth generation of McPhersons now working on our family ranch and farm near Stevensville, Montana. Subdivisions have surrounded us now – we’re already farming in a patchwork of landscapes. That comes with challenges, but also opportunities: we added a direct to customer produce stand to the traditional hay and cattle ranch so we could connect with the urban friends and neighbors our family farm feeds and is now surrounded by.
As a farmer who relates directly to my customers, it’s important to me that agricultural decision making stays within the boundaries of Montana, and more importantly, with farmers and ranchers themselves. Senate Bill 155 would ensure that. Haphazard, local seed regulations have been shoved through in other western states, where local laws have primarily focused on prohibiting the growth of genetically engineered (GE) crops. What a farmer chooses to grow on his own land should be solely his decision. Montana’s agricultural industry wants to make it clear; we won’t stand to see our industry hi-jacked by out-of-state interests like those that pushed burdensome regulations through in communities in Oregon, Colorado and Hawaii.
This bill is not about prioritizing any type of crop over another, or pitting one segment of our farming community against another. It reflects the amount of time and thought given to ensuring a level field for every farmer and rancher in our state. We all deserve to have one, centralized location in the state to look to for seed regulations. We can’t add chasing down every county commission or city council meeting to our to-do list just to know what we can plant where each season.
Exposing farmers and ranchers to a patchwork of regulation county-by-county not only threatens the economic vitality of rural Montana, but it results in politically driven decision making rather than sound management that protects and enhances available natural resources. Politics already influence far too many business decisions. Montana’s role should be to protect farmers and ranchers from burdensome regulation and allow us to work collaboratively and collectively with our neighbors to ensure the best interests of all the state’s agriculturalists are protected.
Agriculture is the state’s No. 1 economic driver. It’s our responsibility to be proactive in ensuring the continued growth and stability of farms and ranches in our state—no matter what type of seed we choose to plant.
Montana Farm Bureau President
The Montana Grain Growers Association's Vice President Michelle Erickson-Jones of Broadview, MT recently wrote an Op-Ed also in support of Senate Bill 155. Click Here to read it.