By Fred Wacker, Montana Stockgrowers Association President
As the Montana Stockgrowers Association (MSGA) leadership came out of our June Board of Directors meeting, I was reminded of how critical it is to have a state organization working on the behalf of Montana’s cattle ranchers.
These past few months have been unprecedented and have affected our industry in ways we could not have predicted. As producers continue to do the important work of keeping our family ranches profitable and food on the table of American consumers, Montana producers can rest assured MSGA is advocating for the cattle industry in Helena and on the national level.
I’d like to highlight some of the issues MSGA is working on, on behalf of the Montana cattle industry. Some of which you might already know about, and some you might not be aware of:
Cattle Market Disruption: MSGA is evaluating proposed national legislation on the “50/14 Proposal” and is also requesting member input by contacting the MSGA office. MSGA has policy supporting transparency in the market, and this topic will surely be a major issue of discussion at MSGA’s MidYear Meeting in August and the Annual Convention & Trade Show in November.
Packer Investigation: MSGA and 22 other state cattlemen’s associations signed a letter in April requesting an investigation on beef pricing margins by the Department of Justice. On the state level, MSGA has been in direct contact with Montana Attorney General Tim Fox on conducting the investigation.
Country of Origin Labeling: MSGA has long been an advocate of COOL, and 2018 MSGA policy supports a beef labeling program that defines USA beef as born, raised, harvested and processed in the USA, and classifies beef products into two categories: Product of the USA “Made with USA Beef,” and Product of the USA “Made with USA Beef and Imported Beef.” The Board also recently passed recommended policy on COOL for membership to consider at MidYear and Annual Convention:
County of Origin Labeling (Recommended by MSGA Board of Directors)
WHEREAS MSGA has long expressed enormous support for a program which allows for the preservation and protection of beef using the “USA” label; and
WHEREAS MSGA supports USA beef as being defined as born, raised, harvested, and processed in the USA;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED MSGA supports the development of a legal Country of Origin program that meets the needs of producers, consumers and regulating entities.
Water Rights: MSGA has been closely involved in passing legislation and intervening in court to prohibit state agencies from asserting ownership of private wells and diversions on private lands. In addition, MSGA has been a player in the development of the Montana Water Rights Protection Act currently moving through the Senate. This protects Montanans’ due process by giving them access to state courts over water disputes between tribal and non-tribal members.
Livestock Predation: MSGA was a key player in developing the Livestock Loss Program, and in meetings with Governor Bullock requested that program be fully funded in his upcoming budget for grizzly, wolf and mountain lion predations on livestock.
This is just a snapshot of what MSGA is doing for Montana ranching families. If there are things you think we should be focused on that aren’t on this list, come to a meeting, call your local director, and get involved.
MSGA is a direct reflection of the policy our members create, so if you are concerned for the future of the cattle industry, I challenge you to become a member to have your voice heard. It’s only through this collective voice that we can protect the future of our industry for generations to come.
Fred Wacker is a rancher from Miles City and President of the Montana Stockgrowers Association