Marias River Livestock Association was formed in March of 2012 due to the concern over Bison being placed on the Marias River Wildlife Management Area just south of Shelby, Montana. It was realized that a strong and unified voice of local citizens at the public meeting held by the FWP had indeed helped in stopping the proposal. The largest concern was that people did not feel well informed of the time, place and topic of the meeting and if it had not been for locals calling each other and encouraging attendance to the meeting that the situation may have turned out differently.
The Association was came together with the purpose of supporting the livestock industry through education of the public on agriculture issues, promoting agriculture friendly legislation and informing the Association members of issues that may affect their operations, comment periods and meetings. The goal of promoting interest in livestock production and agriculture business to the youth of our communities was also of key importance.
With these goals in mind the association determined that in most cases education is needed in order to make wise and sound decisions. Our association held multiple informative meetings open to the public inviting Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks, USDA Wildlife Services, and US Cattlemen’s to come to our four county area and speak to issues concerning us such as wolves, bears, predator control, how the livestock loss board works and COOL.
In 2013 MRLA Board Members educated themselves by attending and holding 10 meetings involving the MT FWP and attending four meetings held by the BLM or the Resource Advisory Council (RAC) for the BLM. Board members were also present at some of the Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP) Council meetings and Interagency Grizzly Bear Council (IGBC) meetings and listening session held Daines, Avalos and others. By being informed we were able to help our membership in writing their comments to the FWP and BLM. MRLA Board members spent time in Helena during the 2013 legislative session lobbying and testifying. We organized letter writing and phone call campaigns to support the bills that we felt would affect us most.
We also had become concerned with foreign animal disease and the lack of knowledge and preparation the Montana beef cattle industry has about this topic after Maggie Nutter, President of MRLA attended an Agro-Emergency Seminar put on by MSU Extention in Great Falls. Nutter then attended the FMD Symposium in Louisville KY in April 2013. This eye open experience motivated MRLA to encourage other organizations such as Montana Stockgrowers and Montana Farm Bureau Federation to be active in promoting education on FMD. We will be hosting a Foreign Animal Disease seminar in June of this year in Shelby.
The Marias River Livestock Association also financially supported the involvement of youth and young producer by supporting the FFA Extravaganza in Great Falls MT, The Young Ag Leaders Conference in Fairmont Hot Springs, The Young Ag Couples Conference in Great Falls, and sponsoring a Two Year Breeders Project Award at the Four County Marias Fair.
Communication is one of the cornerstones of our associations and in effort to keep our members informed of upcoming events and meetings we publish a hard copy newsletter 6-8 times a year and send out e-mail alerts as needed. We maintain a website which is updated every other month when the newsletter is printed and a Facebook Page for more up to date information sharing. We feel our Livestock Association is strong and growing and will be setting goals for the coming year at our next board meeting at the end of March.