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Montana Ag Network – April 2nd Report – Public Lands Council’s legislative conference

Tuesday’s farm and ranch report is on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. as ranchers who are members of the Public Lands Council attend their annual spring legislative conference.

They are advocating for issues that impact public lands ranchers in Montana and across the West.

Ethan Lane, the executive director of the Public Lands Council, said they have a lot of regulatory work underway as an industry.

“We’re working on some of our foundational issues things like the National Environmental Policy Act. The Endangered Species Act. Grazing regulations. We’re working on trying to make progress on long-standing problems. Like wild horses. We’re seeing things like Sage Grouse sort of come to a resolution point where we’ll see how well we did in promulgating new rules on some of those issues,” he said.

The PLC also works with its state affiliates on issues. Phillips County Rancher Vicki Olson represents the Montana PLC.

“The public lands grazing in Montana, and I’ll use my county as an example, is 50 percent federal land. If that wasn’t grazed and if we didn’t have that to utilize and take care of because there aren’t enough BLM employees to take care of all that range and notice when the trends are down or what the trends are. So we help in that way. If we weren’t there what would happen to that land. Would it be subdivided? Would that happen if the ranchers weren’t there and couldn’t use that grazing?” she said.

The Trump Administration’s failure to name a Montana BLM director is also a top concern for Montana ranchers. As is the confirmation of a new Secretary of the Interior. The PLC supports acting secretary David Bernhardt.

“I think there was a broad recognition of what a policy wonk this guy is. What an expert he is in the areas that we’re talking about and you know, there was sort of some implying that somehow because he’s been working on these issues for decades that makes them ill fit for the job. We think it’s exactly why he’s so well fit for the job. He’s seen him from both sides. He’s worked in the administration before he’s worked in the private sector before,” Lane said. “He understands these issues from both sides of the coin. We think he’s going to make an excellent secretary. Obviously now, we need to see a vote out of the Senate Energy Committee to advance him to the floor. And we need to see leader McConnell schedule a quick floor vote so we can get him back to work.”

Now environmental groups like The Natural Resources Defense Council and Defenders of Wildlife oppose the nomination of Bernhardt on the grounds of his background working in the oil and gas industries.

Trade is on the top of all producers’ minds in the country side and for elected officials in DC.

Larry Kudlow, director of the National Economic Council, put a damper on the prospect of the U.S. and China wrapping up trade talks in the next few weeks.

Politico said Kudlow is normally upbeat, but he threw out a bunch of caution by saying it may take a few months yet for President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping to meet and finalize an agreement to end the trade war.

Negotiations were still ongoing as of late last week as both U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin were in Beijing. A Chinese delegation will visit  Washington, D.C., this week in order to continue talks and will likely meet with President Trump.

Defining Sustainable Beef Production will be the theme of the 2019 Montana Nutrition Conference and Livestock Forum. The annual event will be held April 15th and 16th in Bozeman’s GranTree Inn.

For more details and to register, visit here.

-Reported by Lane Nordlund/MTN News

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