Consumer Access to Beef a Priority for State’s Ag Leaders

by Colter Brown

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With the end of the 67th legislature, leaders from the Montana Farm Bureau Federation (MFBF) and Montana Stockgrowers Association (MSGA) applaud the collaborative work done by stakeholders, lawmakers and the Department of Livestock creating greater access to Montana agricultural products, specifically Montana beef, for consumers.

Under the leadership of Speaker Wylie Galt, Martinsdale, Senator Ryan Osmundson, Buffalo, and Representative Josh Kassmier, Fort Benton, funding was secured for two crucial programs that will help bolster processing capacity and access to Montana beef.

As part of House Bill 2, the Department of Livestock will receive funding to implement a cooperative interstate shipment (CIS) program. The Made in Montana program, under the Department of Commerce, will receive $200,000, through HB 660, to complement the aforementioned effort by promoting made in Montana and grown in Montana products.

In January, legislators and industry leaders from MFBF and MSGA held a roundtable discussion with the Department of Livestock to address concerns surrounding meat processing capacity. As solutions were discussed, the possibility for a cooperative interstate shipment (CIS) program rose to the top as one of the most feasible options to implement for the Department of Livestock. CIS promotes the expansion of business opportunities for state-inspected meat and poultry establishments. Under CIS, state-inspected plants can operate as federally-inspected facilities, under specific conditions, and ship their product either state to state or internationally. Without CIS, a state-inspected plant is limited to sales within its own borders even when an adjoining state is just across the highway or river.

The Made in Montana program, which also includes Grown in Montana and Native American Made in Montana, focuses on consumer marketing and builds recognition for “authentically Montana” products. This past year, the program has seen an increase of more than 30% in voluntary enrollment from Montana beef producers. The program also assists Montana businesses in developing and marketing their products, and works with restaurants to feature Montana-grown products under the “Taste Our Place” umbrella.

Both organizations also  supported multiple pieces of legislation that will help pave the way for greater consumer access to Montana beef, including:

  • Securing funding for a new Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.
  • Promoting “product of the USA” labeling.
  • Favoring continued cultivation of trade relations with Taiwan.
  • Supporting the creation of a grant account to invest in infrastructure for port authorities.
  • Advocating for an increased exemption limit of $300,000 for the business equipment tax.

Success in the passage of these funding mechanisms and policies will continue to move the needle on creating greater consumer access to Montana beef. The organizations, legislators, and agency all recognize there are still opportunities to grow consumer access and bring added-value to Montana producers and look forward to continued collaboration.

“Cattle production in Montana is an annual $2 billion industry and plays an important role in the state’s top economy. The success of Montana ranchers depends on collaboration and proactively finding solutions for challenges the industry faces. These efforts show the power of collaboration. We are excited in what we have accomplished and to bring greater consumer familiarity and access to Montana beef as well as added value to our members.” Jim Steinbeisser, Montana Stockgrowers Association President

“MFBF is diligent in finding solutions that will actually make a positive difference for farmers and ranchers. Solutions on this subject have not been easy to find but actions taken in the 67th Legislative Session will help add value to Montana agriculture products. We appreciate all the legislators involved in solving this issue, and that leadership made it clear this was a priority.” Hans McPherson, Montana Farm Bureau Federation President.

“The last legislative session was very good for Montana and Montana ag producers. As one of the few ag producers in the legislature, I can say MFBF and MSGA were the two organizations that worked closely with legislators to find real solutions to the challenges we face as ag producers. I was impressed at the efficient manner in which the Department of Livestock plans to implement the CIS program. I look forward to working with the Department and these organizations in the future.” Senator Ryan Osmundson, Senate District 15

“I am proud of the collaborative work accomplished for producers, consumers, and processors. We worked hard to find solutions that could be immediately implemented and begin to create immediate results for Montanans. I look forward to future conversations with stakeholders and the Department of Livestock on how we can continue to serve Montana’s number one industry.” Representative Josh Kassmier, House District 27

“During the legislative session increasing the value-added processing capacity for our ranchers was a top priority for our legislators, our agriculture organizations, the Governor’s office and our agency. I am excited with how each group worked together to put forward viable solutions to the lack of marketing options we have within the state. Most important will be the additional funding for MDOL to add the Cooperative Interstate Shippers option for our state inspected meat processing businesses to expand their markets beyond our state borders if they so choose.” Mike Honeycutt, Montana Department of Livestock Executive Officer

 

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The Montana Farm Bureau Federation is a general agricultural organization working to protect family farms and ranches on behalf of nearly 21,000 members statewide and as part of a nationwide network of nearly 5.6 million Farm Bureau members.

The Montana Stockgrowers Association is a grassroots membership organization and is the trusted voice of cattle ranchers. With a 135 year history, MSGA advocates and ensures cattle ranching remains relevant, safe and a sustainable way of life for generations to come.


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