U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte, R-Bozeman, made a stop at a Ronan business last week as part of his Small Business Tour.
During his hour-long visit at Westland Seed, Gianforte met with owner David Sagmiller and a group of about 10, discussing concerns of ranchers and farmers.
Gianforte talked about the Farm Bill, electronic logging devices (ELDs), and grazing allotments, among other topics.
Prior to Gianforte’s appearance, Sagmiller said he received a call from Gianforte’s office asking if he could “swing by.”
“We said sure, everybody’s welcome,” Sagmiller said.
During the conversation between the representative and the small crowd, Gianforte asked questions about the company, later going on a tour of the building led by Sagmiller.
Gianforte shared that progress on the Farm Bill has been made. Currently, it is out of committee and he has made an agricultural committee that consists of 20 members from various capacities, including green growers and farm bureau representatives.
Bringing up hauling goods, Gianforte explained ELDs are devices that shut off a semi-trailer engine when a time limit is reached.
Stating that he believes they have a “detrimental effect” on rural America, Gianforte said that they were first implemented for long-haul trips from coast to coast.
“Imagine you’re up on the hi- line the middle of winter. You’ve got a load of cattle and the thing shuts off. Plus it’s a safety issue for the driver. It’s a problem,” he said.
Gianforte said he has written a letter to The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, and he’s collecting Congress signatures for an exemption for the Small Business Association terms ‘small business trucking.’
Gianforte said the SBA defines small business trucking as any business that generates $27 million or less a year. Redefining the terms would help “a lot” of ranching and farming businesses in Montana, he said.
Gianforte said he recently talked with United States Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke about bison and the Bureau of Land Management.
A public hearing process in which Zinke told Gianforte information would be extracted and used to make a decision will happen in the near future, Gianforte said.
The American Prairie Reserve, according to BLM.gov, controls private properties to 18 BLM grazing allotments in Fergus, Petroleum, Phillips and Valley Counties.
APR has submitted a proposal asking the BLM to modify grazing permits, seeking permission to change the class of livestock from cattle to bison, allow for season-long grazing, fortify existing external boundary fences by replacing the second strand from the top with electrified wire and removing interior fences.
Grazing allotment holders should all be treated equal, Gianforte said, and Zinke reassured him that everyone would be.