A record number of Montana Farm Bureau members gathered June 15-18 at Rock Creek resort in Red Lodge for the organization’s summer conference. Advisory committees heard speakers on pertinent topics, then discussed agricultural issues and made recommendations for Farm Bureau policy development.
“It was rewarding to have such a large number of our members attending and becoming involved in the policy-making process,” noted MFBF President Bob Hanson. “Since we represent farmers and ranchers across the state, there was an excellent exchange of ideas regarding challenges facing agriculture. It was great to see new faces, as well as having our long-time members still participating in the policy development process. I’m sure everyone came away with the true sense of how our grassroots organization operates.”
Lunchtime keynote speaker David Kibbe, CEO of New West Health Services, Farm Bureau’s partner in their Association Health Plan, addressed the future of health care. “Some of the pros of the recently passed Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act include expanded coverage, tax credits, enhancement of primary care, and standardized benefits,” explained Kibbe. However, he pointed out the cons—increased regulations, not enough being done for primary care support, and that it encourages a monolithic, one-size-fits-all approach—as a real cause for concern.
“We need to have communities build teams to fix health care,” Kibbe explained. “We need physicians, insurance companies, associations, businesses, individuals and other health care professionals to work together. At this point, health care reform is incomplete, and we all need to work as a team if we want to see meaningful change.”
New Farm Service Agency Executive Director Bruce Nelson attended the meeting where he explained some of the farm loan programs available. “This year is going to top last year for direct loan volume,” he noted. “There is a lot of land coming out of the Conservation Reserve Program, there are loans for conservation cost-share and the 2008 Farm Bill made livestock disaster relief programs permanent,” noted Nelson. He urged interested producers to sign up between now and September 30 for crop insurance.
Margee Wolf, American Farm Bureau Federation, not only put on a training program for committee chairmen, but gave a presentation on working with others to the entire group. “We get preoccupied with what we want to say, and then we don’t listen to anyone else,” she noted. “When you speak, make sure you’re clear, concise and articulate and say what you want to say. You want to get people to build on your ideas.”
Committee members heard speakers talk about weeds, wild horses, wolf predation, taxes, water marketing, organic grain certification and a variety of other issues. Several committees had lively discussions and made recommendation to the MFBF Board of Directors on a variety of topics. The Natural Environmental Resource Committee recommended more research be conducted on the procedure to remove zoning districts. They recommended more research, as well, on how private property rights and the tax base are affected by bison ranches. They also recommended opposing any further national monuments in Montana. The water committee suggested alerting county Farm Bureaus to water issues including the control of water marketing, speculation and exempt wells.
With the main business portion of the conference concluding Wednesday, members had options for Thursday including the Montana Farm Bureau Foundation Golf Tournament, or a van tour of the Beartooth Highway and Buffalo Bill Historical Center. The event concluded with the MFB Foundation Fundraising Auction and pig races at the Bear Creek Saloon.
Posted by Kaci Switzer