HELENA, Mont. - The 2021 legislative session has been anything but normal. Like so many other things, COVID-19 has forced changes to how bills are heard. Country of origin labeling, right to repair and hemp policies are just a few things Rachel Prevost is keeping her eye on.
Prevost is a lobbyist who works for Montana Farmers Union but works to represent all farmers and ranchers as well.
This past week, she testified in front of several committees, including Senate Agriculture. She is already preparing for an important hearing, on a right to repair bill for farmers and ranchers.
"Right to repair, it’s just, it’s a real problem for farmers who get stuck out in the field with maybe a diagnostic code when it comes to computer-enabled equipment,” Prevost said. “And so having the ability to do their own repair is huge and that's what the bill is addressing."
Montana is a right-to-repair state but that right to repair does not include technology. So, when something goes wrong with the tractor’s computer, you have to call the manufacturer to get it fixed and that means lost time in the fields, and loss of money.
On the flip side businesses like those equipment manufacturers like to stay competitive. We were told just a few months ago that you could buy the equipment or fix your machine, but you would have to outright own your equipment and it costs thousands of dollars.
That's where Prevost comes in. Sharing the knowledge she gets from Montana’s farmers and ranchers and finding ways to keep Montana’s family farms running.
"Agriculture is the number one industry in the state, you know an economic backbone for our state,” Prevost said. “And so, ag policy is a huge part of what our state is and so, I’ve always kind of wanted to figure out a way that I can get involved and maybe make a difference and make sure that rural communities and agricultural voices are heard."
As of now, there are more than 20 agriculture-related bills farmers and ranchers will be watching make their way through the legislature. This week marks the halfway point of the session and depending on what happens here, it could determine what the future is of Montana’s family farms.