Farm & Ranch
Rotunda roundup from Montana Farmers Union
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The following is a weekly update of Montana Farmers Union involvement in the 2023 Legislature. MFU is the state’s largest and oldest grassroots farm advocacy organization representing family farms, and has worked more than 100 years on behalf of Montana farmers, ranchers and rural communities.
The farmers and ranchers of Montana Farmers Union believe that voting processes which secure ease and access to voting by all citizens are good policy. Members also oppose undermining the will of the people expressed by public vote.
As such, MFU supported a bill that would have provided for automatic voter registration, while opposing several bills that would have placed unreasonable expectations on election offices and rural budgets and threatened accessibility.
MFU supported HB 756, which provided for automatic voter registration with opt-out. Rural Montanans, and especially farmers and ranchers, already face the hurdles of long distances required to reach polling places and more time away from work to vote than their urban counterparts.
Automatic voter registration encourages voting, and along with voting processes such as mail-in ballots, ballot drop boxes, early voting, and same-day registration, helps to make the voices of regular Montanans heard above high-spending campaigns. Unfortunately, the bill was tabled.
MFU opposed both SB 435, which would require hand counting as the primary method of tabulating votes, and SB 484, which would have required party affiliation to vote. Both were tabled.
MFU also opposed SB 472, which would have required vote counts to be completed within three hours of polls closing and also was tabled. MFU members want to work with and not against our election administrators.
Montana Farmers Union also supported and opposed several other bills this week.
- HB 475 & SB 347: Unfortunately, both of the right to repair bills were tabled in their respective ag committees. MFU will continue to monitor how other states are tackling the issue.
- HB 805: MFU actively supports patron-owned cooperatives and played a critical role in the start of our rural electric and telephone cooperatives still relied upon today. This bill would require a business to be legally organized as a cooperative to use the word or any abbreviations, protecting the reputation of cooperatives and preventing potential shareholders being misled. The bill will soon be heard by the Senate.
- HB 463: The bill would have provided an opportunity for the state and agricultural producers to cooperate in both developing markets for our goods and providing fresh, nutritious food to schools and other institutions for which the state procures food. The bill was tabled.
- HB 651: Economic security for both workers and
employers is sorely needed for the preservation of rural communities. This bill was tabled.
- SB 447: Family farmers and ranchers are facing unprecedented challenges to our way of life. Trying to compete with the economics of corporate scale means that our members must diversify and be creative in finding ways to augment low prices and to defray ever-increasing costs. Broadening the definition of agritourism to include U-Pick operations, and clarifying the definition of inherent risk - contained in the amendment - are sensible changes. This bill has passed the Senate.
- SJ 13: This bill will designate the month of June as Rangeland Appreciation month. MFU policy on land use urges supporting a farmland and rangeland protection policy to encourage the continuation of farming versus urban development. This resolution has passed the Senate.
- SB 399: This bill would support our rural communities, and provide the opportunity and framework for more Montanans to utilize solar energy through community solar. The bill was tabled.
MFU stood in opposition to the following bills:
- HB 643: MFU calls upon the Legislature to enact legislation to expand the benefits of net metering, not create laws that would increase rates and create new fees. This bill was tabled.
Go to https://montanafarmersunion.com/legislation/ for more details on MFU’s legislative work throughout the Legislative Session on behalf of Montana’s farmers, ranchers and rural communities.