Thursday hearing: Bill would prohibit local regulation of ag industry

The Montana Farm Bureau Federation supports Senate Bill 155. (Montana DEQ photo)

By Freddy Monares/UM Legislative News Service

HELENA – Montana lawmakers will consider a bill Thursday at the Senate Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation Committee that would strip local governments’ authority to regulate the agricultural industry, with the aim to provide consistency for farming techniques across the state.

Senate Bill 155 would mean any regulations dealing with agricultural processes or seed usage would have to come from the state.

The Oregon Legislature passed a similar bill in 2013 to address what supporters called a patchwork of regulations. The bill stemmed from a county’s ballot initiative that banned GMOs in that one county.

Montana Farm Bureau Federation representative Chelcie Cargill supports the bill.

“Having both seeds and fertilizer regulated at the state level makes sense for them and creates efficiencies, not only for them and their business on the farm and ranch, but also for the state’s agri-businesses,” Cargill said.

In Montana, she said, it’s common for farmers to have land that extends across county lines.

“Being subject to regulation that varies county, by county, by county, makes it really difficult for them to operate in each individual county and becomes pretty burdensome and cost prohibitive to those farm and ranch families in Montana,” Cargill said.

Freddy Monares is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.