Rotunda Roundup From Montana Farmers Union: Legislative Update For April 10-14
MFU continues to support a bill that would provide property tax incentives for alternative fuel production.
Senate Bill 510 is a good step forward toward incentivizing renewable diesel production. A Refinery in Great Falls is in the process of converting part of its capacity to renewable diesel, which will require 2 million acres of oilseed for feedstock. Canola will be a good rotational crop for Montana farmers. Some 185 thousand acres of spring canola are currently grown here, and MSU is doing some research into winter canola, which has a higher yield and can lead to a more lucrative harvest for farmers. This market access increase could be a great opportunity for farmers.
Another benefit is the EPA concluded that the life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions from biodiesel made with canola oil are half of the petroleum-based diesel fuel.
Montana Farmers Union has strongly advocated increasing biofuels and getting canola as an approved feedstock for renewable diesel. Montana refineries and producers should be encouraged to utilize and expand the market using Montana-grown canola instead of shipping in soybean oil from out of state.
Also this week in the Legislature, MFU supported:
- HB 898, sponsored by Rep. Paul Tuss – Revise the Montana Microbusiness Development Act: The bill expands the definition of a micro business to include more small business ideas. We are excited to see the revenue surplus used to fund more of these loans, because when we lift from the bottom, everybody rises. That is especially true in rural Montana, and this bill would benefit our rural communities. Many family farms and ranches fall into this micro business category, and even more farm and ranch-based businesses do. Our members have been starting small businesses more than 100 years and being the economic staples of our rural communities. In rural areas these loans are important, and so is the technical assistance available for identifying and applying for other grants, like the Growth Through Agriculture Grant, various meat processing grants, Cares Act funding, and other opportunities.
- HB 245, sponsored by Rep. Sue Vinton – Revise tax credit for trades education and training: This bill expands the Trades Education and Training tax credit to include additional occupations and industries and extends the expiration date of the credit. MFU’s member-written policy calls for adequate funding for vocational and technical education. We, along with most Montanans, value keeping the next generation of producers on the land and building functional communities. To do that, we need qualified agricultural equipment operators, inspectors, farm and ranch workers and laborers. To do their best work, they must keep up with modern technologies and techniques. Who better to train them then other tradespeople? This tax credit is important for Montana’s future generations. This bill was concurred in by the committee and will return to the House.
- SB 296, sponsored by Sen. Becky Beard – Revise nursing home and/or assisted living funding: Rural Montana has an enormous problem with getting appropriate, skilled support for our senior friends and family members who want to continue to live near where they spent their lives. Rural Montana hospitals and care facilities rely heavily on Medicaid and Medicare payments, and nearly half of Montanans covered by Medicaid are from small towns, where many businesses can’t afford to pay for health insurance for their employees. The bill has been concurred in by the committee and will return to the Senate.
- HB 382, sponsored by Rep. Greg Oblander – Revise education laws related to career and technology student organizations: We urge the legislature to continue working for equity in access and quality of educational opportunity for rural areas, and we urge adequate funding for vocational-technical education. MFU supports career and technical education opportunities for students and is a proud partner and supporter of FFA and other youth leadership and development organizations in the state. These career and technical student organizations add great value to the educational opportunities of our rural students. They provide an opportunity to enhance life skills and give students the opportunity to compete, study, and learn skills and about topics they would not otherwise explore without these CTSOs. These organizations support and train the next generation of our skilled workforce. Supporting these organizations with funding is truly an investment in the next generation. We thank the sponsor for bringing the bill and appreciate that the funding will be allocated to support these programs in Montana.
MFU also weighed in on:
- SJ 21, sponsored by Sen. Forrest Mandeville, Interim study to review the Land Use Planning Act: MFU’s grassroots, member-written policy, supports a farmland and rangeland protection policy to encourage the continuation of farming versus urban development. Closely watching and monitoring land use planning and processes is important for rural communities and agriculture. We urge that agricultural stakeholders be consulted and included at the table for this study process of SJ 21. Family farmers, ranchers, rural communities, and agricultural land are essential to Montana’s future. It’s critically important that those voices are at the table during this process.
To get involved on a committee or through lobbying, reach out to your local ambassador or MFU Government Affairs Director Rachel Prevost. Find them HERE.
Read more about MFU’s legislative efforts from the past week here.