MT House debates seed regulation
HELENA, Mont. -- The Montana House Agriculture committee on a 15-8 vote has passed a bill that would prevent local governments from regulating agricultural and vegetable seed.
HELENA, Mont. - The Montana House Agriculture committee on a 15-8 vote has passed a bill that would prevent local governments from regulating agricultural and vegetable seed.
Senate Bill 155 , introduced by Sen. Mike Lang, R-Malta, would only allow the state to set regulations on seed sale and production..
“My only resistance to local government support is when it jeopardizes private property rights,” Lang said.
The bill passed the Senate 33-17 before moving to the House. The full House has not yet taken up the bill.
Lang said seeds account for $2.8 billion of Montana’s agricultural revenue, and that seed operations often cross county lines. He said the bill would prevent counties from restricting what types of seed may be planted.
While many argued that is presently not a problem, Lang said “there’s nothing wrong with being proactive.”
Many of the bill’s supporters said they wanted to prevent additional regulations on the agriculture industry.
“Agriculture is already one of the most heavily regulated industries out there,” said Chelcie Cargill, representing the Montana Farm Bureau.
Jacob Baum, representing the Montana Seed Association, said because small areas can often yield large amounts of seeds, a local government deciding to regulate against a particular seed could be disastrous for the market at large.
Opponents of the bill argued the problem doesn’t exist.
“Despite what we’ve heard from proponents, there really is no problem to solve,” said Kristina Hubbard of the Organic Seed Alliance. “There is neither a patchwork of local seed regulations harming producers, nor are such regulations being proposed.”
Ole Norgaard, of the Montana Organic Association, said the bill is founded on “fear and a fear-based mentality that has nothing to do with Montana.”
Adam Haight, representing the Northern Plains Resource Council, said local legislation allows communities to better protect themselves against market concerns about genetically modified products. He said scares about GMOs have the potential to drastically affect overseas wheat markets, and that local legislation could help prevent this.
Editor’s note: The UM Community News Service is a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism and the Montana Newspaper Association.