Five legislators received awards for support of agriculture and rural Montana during the Montana Farm Bureau Summer Conference June 5-7 at the GranTree Inn in Bozeman.
Representative Josh Kassmier, HD 27, Fort Benton, Senator Mike Lang, SD 17, Malta and Representative Ken Walsh, HD 71, Twin Bridges,received the Outstanding Friend of Farm Bureau Award. This award is given to the Senator and Representative who had the highest overall scores on MFBF’s legislative scorecard; these legislators demonstrated their support of Montana agriculture through their voting record, bill sponsorship and leadership within various committees.
“Representative Kassmier proved to be a great leader again this session,” said MFBF President Cyndi Johnson. “Rep. Kassmier has a strong agricultural background and shows his dedication to the industry through his service in Helena. We are so appreciative of his continued efforts in the legislature and look forward to working with him in the future.”
Senator Lang, who served as chairman of the Senate Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation Committee, has been a strong voice for rural Montana for years.
“Senator Lang fully understands the needs and concerns of our rural lifestyle. and always considers the best interests of agriculture and Montana’s farm and ranch families,” said Johnson. “We value his thoughtfulness, insight and dependability. We are honored to work with him.”
Representative Walsh received the MFBF Rookie of the Year Award in 2021 and has returned to receive the Outstanding Friend of Farm Bureau Award this year. Rep. Walsh served on the House Natural Resources Committee and House Agriculture Committee, which are both incredibly important committees for MFBF.
“Representative Walsh took a stand to voice the problems in the bills that harmed agriculture and always voted to protect agriculture. This is not an easy ask and we appreciate him leading the way to protect farmers and ranchers,” noted Johnson. “He also carried important legislation that has positive impacts to farmers and ranchers, and we sincerely appreciate his dedication to agriculture.
Senators Jeff Welborn, SD 36, Dillon, and Senator Mike Lang, SD-17, Malta, received the Distinguished Service Golden Plow Award. This award is given to a termed-out legislator who has exhibited exemplary service and dedication to agriculture in their tenure as a Montana legislator.
Having served four terms in the House and two terms in the Senate, Senator Welborn has served his constituents and agriculture with great consideration and faithfulness. An incredibly thoughtful legislator, Senator Welborn is known for his ability to understand the importance and long-term impacts of legislation and navigate paths to success.
“It’s especially rewarding to give this award to Senator Welborn who has been involved in Montana Farm Bureau for many years and who served as Young Farmer & Rancher Committee Chair,” noted Johnson. “MFBF appreciates that he has always been gracious with his time, speaking to countless Farm Bureau groups on a variety of important topics. Senator Welborn could always be counted on to advocate for issues important to agriculture.”
Along with receiving the Outstanding Friend of Farm Bureau Award for his voting record, Senator Mike Lang also received the Distinguished Service Golden Plow Award. He is certainly an example of a great legislator, gaining one of the highest scores in MFBF history.
“Senator Lang is a small-town business owner and longtime rural Montanan, and he always considers the best interests of agriculture and Montana’s farm and ranch families,” said Johnson. “We value his thoughtfulness, insight and dependability. Sen. Lang sponsored many bills this session that MFBF policy supported and we thank him for these important bills.”
Representative Russ Miner, HD 19, Great Falls, received the 2023 Rookie of the Year Award. The Rookie of the Year Award is presented to a freshman legislator who went above and beyond in learning the legislative process and doing his best to serve agriculture and rural Montana.
Having attended the two-day MFBF Campaign Seminar in 2020 and 2022, Miner ran a successful campaign and jumped right into what turned out to be a long session, serving on three committees of great importance to agriculture: House Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Agriculture, and Natural Resources. In that capacity, Rep. Miner heard many controversial bills and carefully considered the facts before making tough decisions.
“We appreciate that he voted with MFBF policy every time, showing his support for agriculture,” said Johnson. “We applaud his magnificent work in his freshman term and are excited to see what his future holds.”