Lawmakers Consider Measures To Modernize Livestock Laws
The Montana House Agriculture Committee advanced two bills Tuesday, Jan. 3, that would modernize the livestock inspection process and online livestock sales. Supporters of the bills also said they could help trace disease and protect producers from predatory marketers.
Rep. Julie Dooling, R-Townsend, presented House Bill 44, which would remove the requirement that state livestock inspectors would need to produce at least three paper copies on inspections.
“The department’s objective moving forward toward more digital methods is for issuing inspections and permits to reduce the redundancy of back office data entry,” Dooling said.
Current livestock law makes it so that an inspector must make one copy for themselves, one copy for the owner or shipper of the livestock, and a final copy be delivered to the Department of Livestock within five days of the inspection.
The proposed bill would allow inspectors to use iPads or other tablets to directly upload documents to owners, shippers and the department.
The bill would also allow better tracking of diseases throughout livestock herds, Dooling said.
Software has already been developed through funding that was given in House Bill 10 during the 2019 Legislature.
“This is about the modernization of a very important process. Just like in all of our everyday lives, technology is becoming more and more of something we use every day,” said Nicole Rolf of the Montana Farm Bureau Association, who supported the bill.
Erik Somerfeld, a Montana rancher, supported the bill and said the new technology will not be forced on anyone. “The old guys that are going to be anti-technology and don’t want to do it (so) it’s not going to be an immediate switchover,” Somerfeld said. “They’re still going to have the ability to get it done.”
Following HB 44, Brandon Ler, R-Savage, presented House Bill 153, which would revise the laws involving online livestock auctions and align them with federal regulations.
Mike Honeycutt, executive officer at the Department of Livestock, supported the bill, saying it would align state policy with that of the Federal Packers and Stockyards Act.
“Livestock marketing is much more diverse today,” Honeycutt said. “Laws regarding satellite and video auction sales were written before the internet became a common platform for which livestock was bought and sold.”
Currently, payments are not required at the end of a sale following an online auction in Montana. This bill would make payments due right after the completion of a sale.
“This is to protect the interest of our producers from predatory marketers,” Honeycutt said.
The bill would also streamline applying for a livestock license, removing requirements to tell the Department of Livestock of other markets within a 200-mile radius when applying for a new market, and eliminating the requirement to estimate the amount of revenue the market would create for the state department.
No one opposed either HB 44 or HB 153 at the committee hearing. Both HB 44 and HB 153 now move to the full House for debate.