The Grow Montana Food Policy Coalition, which is housed at and coordinated by NCAT, is following developments by the Department of Livestock that could negatively impact small dairy producers and processors in Montana.  The department has proposed amending ARM 32.2.406 to almost double the inspection fee per 100 pounds if milk and increase the minimum monthly charge from $50 to $225.  Fees for dairy processors are also included, with a minimum monthly charge of $725 and a maximum of $2,850.  The economic impact on small dairy businesses could be severe.         

Grow Montana submitted a letter to the Livestock Department outlining our concerns that the changes could result in smaller dairy operations having to shut down.  In its “Notice of Proposed Amendment,” the department conceded as much, stating “the fee increase in the proposed amendment may significantly and directly impact some small businesses.”  Furthermore, Livestock stated, “Small businesses in the early growth state will be especially impacted.”

Originally, the department did not schedule a public hearing on the change.  However, we recently learned it will now take public comment at both a town-hall style meeting and an official public hearing.  The dates and locations are:

Town Hall Meeting
Thursday, December 17, 2015:
Holiday Inn
5 Baxter Lane
Bozeman
10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Public Hearing
Thursday, January 28, 2016
Scott Hart Building
302 N. Roberts
Helena
10:00 a.m.

If you would be impacted by an increase in these fees or just want to weigh in, please plan on attending one of these meetings or submitting comments to the department at MDOLcomments@mt.gov.  The department will accept comments through February 5, 2016.  In preparing your remarks, please think about the following:

  • Provide real numbers on how the change in fees will impact your business.
  • Encourage the department to explore other options to fund its inspection budget, including working with the Governor’s Office and/or the Economic Affairs Interim Committee to identify alternative streams of funding.
  • Remind the department that inspections are a public health issue impacting all Montanans, meaning some funding should come from the General Fund instead of placing the entire burden on the dairy industry.

For more background on this issue, please this Bozeman Daily Chronicle article that featured comments by small dairy producers.