Saturday, February 16, 2008

Stockgrowers on brucellosis: is the Board of Livestock really listening?

The MSGA describes the mood of its members as "uneasy," and it seems that it should be. That organization had seemingly staved off the governor's push toward a "split-state" approach to dealing with the brucellosis problem that looms over Montana cattlemen because of the reservoir of that disease in bison in Yellowstone Park. Or at least until the latest "listening session" with the Board of Livestock.

Last fall, the governor seemed to have publicly (in none too good a temper) thrown in the towel on his split-state proposal -- which could also be known as a "split the Stockgrowers" proposal." Not that we blame the governor for wanting to do the agricultural equivalent of union-busting when it comes to an organization that, while itself non-partisan, tends to be supported by Republicans.

It seems, however, that the executive branch may just have been lying low. At the time when the split-state proposal got voted down, the vote was nearly unanimous. Nearly, we say, because one BOL member, Stan Boone, stuck with the governor in spite of the overwhelming testimony that Montana ranchers opposed split-state status.

Boone, as attentive MH leaders will recall, was the member that the governor pushed onto the board in the teeth of opposition from the legislature and over the objections of nearly all of the brand inspectors in the state of Montana. For those who weren't reading MH back then, here's a place to start -- follow the links.

The governor knew he what he was getting when he pushed through Boone over so many objections -- a loyal rubber-stamp. Now again at this latest "listening session," Boone came through for the governor by reviving the specter of split-state status:

"Just to clarify, split-state status is not off the table, it is still an option," stated Stan Boone, a BOL cattle representative from Ingomar.

The MSGA has made no secret of the programs that it thinks will best address the problem, and continues to wait for the Board of Livestock and the governor to be a help rather than a foil for the livestock industry in accomplishing the important task of maintaining Montana's brucellosis-free status. This should not be an issue that provokes partisanship, given the importance of the cattle industry in Montana, but it seems that this is an executive branch that is always looking for a partisan advantage.

We look forward to a Governor Roy Brown, who will work with a united ranching community, rather than working to divide them.

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