Guest opinion: Montana Grain Growers need statewide seed rules

March 7, 2017 GMT

In late 2016 when the Montana Ag Coalition focused attention on the 2017 Legislature and began fine tuning our priorities we decided to be proactive and construct a bill that created uniformity of seed regulations across the state. That decision became SB155 – Prohibit Local Government Regulation of Agricultural Seeds. This bill was written solely by the members of the Montana Ag Coalition, along with the support of the Montana Association of Counties, for the benefit of the many individual producers those groups represent.

The purpose of this bill is to protect Montana’s many producers of agricultural goods from patchwork regulations on the local and county level. Supporting this bill means we are supporting all facets of agricultural production. Local and county regulations of seed are not necessarily limited to potential bans on the production of genetically modified seeds, they can also include bans on organic production, traditional breeding, or any other regulation a local or county entity can pass into law. These patchwork regulations make it difficult for farmers to maintain the free flow of goods and services across the state. Most of Montana’s agricultural products are exported out of the state and our producers rely on a uniform rule of law and unencumbered commerce to maintain those exports. Local and county regulations inhibit our ability to do that.

Our Montana producers also understand that they need every tool available to them to produce their products. Placing patchwork limitations on them that are outside of accepted federal and state regulatory systems impacts our ability to make the best agronomic, environmental and financial decisions for our private property. Seeds and seed technology are already heavily regulated at the state and federal level and require approval before being released for use in a commercial setting, it is unnecessary to have these products scrutinized (often outside of the accepted scientific standards) at the local and county level.

Lastly these patchwork regulations potentially threaten the livelihoods of Montana producers as they may inadvertently ban future technologies that could provide substantial consumer or environmental benefits to the public and significant returns to the local economy even after they receive state and federal approval.

The Montana Ag Coalition, the Montana Association of Counties and the Montana Grain Growers Association urge all of Montana to support SB155 and allow our producers to continue to produce some of the highest quality agricultural products in the world. These products allow us, even in down commodity markets, to remain the top economic contributor to not only the state as a whole but the local communities and rural main streets that dot our rural landscape.