We are writing to you to express our serious concerns regarding Senate Bill 147. This bill drastically changes the way agriculture is considered in the subdivision review process. Rather than looking at the impacts to agriculture as a whole, this bill limits consideration to “impacts on surrounding adjacent agricultural operations.” A similar bill was introduced in 2011 but was ultimately vetoed...
We are writing to you to express our serious concerns regarding Senate Bill 147. This bill drastically changes the way agriculture is considered in the subdivision review process. Rather than looking at the impacts to agriculture as a whole, this bill limits consideration to “impacts on surrounding adjacent agricultural operations.” A similar bill was introduced in 2011 but was ultimately vetoed by Governor Schweitzer as he thought the amendments were “unnecessary, contrary to the public interest, and could jeopardize one of Montana’s most important industries – farming and ranching” (Letter to Senate President and House Speaker, 4/13/2011). We urge you to consider voting NO on SB 147.
The Montana Subdivision and Platting Act (MSPA), which SB 147 seeks to change, has a long history of supporting agriculture. In 1975, Rep. John Vincent introduced the MSPA “primarily because of the tragic intrusion on the agriculture land base of Montana.” In the meeting in which the bill was introduced Vincent said “this was especially brought home to him in his home county, Gallatin, (where) one has to drive but a short distance to see some of the best agricultural land covered by houses and subdivisions” (MT House Natural Resources Committee, 2/22/1975).
In addition, the Montana State Constitution provides clear support for agriculture, stating “the legislature shall… enact laws and provide appropriations to protect, enhance, and develop all agriculture” (Article XII, 1.1). When this provision was added, the Natural Resources & Agriculture Committee of the Constitutional Convention intended “to recognize the largest and most important industry in the state… and to provide appropriations and authorities to adequately protect, enhance, and develop the agricultural industry of the state” (Montana Constitutional Convention, page 560, 2/17/1972). It is clear that the Constitution and the MSPA intended to protect agriculture. SB 147 amends the MSPA in a way that is contrary to its original intent.
Shifting the focus to adjacent agricultural operations has several clear negative impacts:
• It shifts the focus away from the broad array of impacts that subdivisions have on ag operations (i.e. limited ability to grow, increased weed issues along roads, water supply issues along ditches, etc.) to a limited focus on problem dogs and neighbors complaining of dust and noise
• It prevents local government from considering the permanent loss of agricultural land as an impact of a subdivision and creating a more predictable subdivision review process that can be tailored to the needs of the local community.
• It pits neighbors against neighbors by requiring that the only producer whose comments count is the next-door neighbor.
• It disallows surrounding producers whose property boundaries are not directly adjoining the subdivision from commenting on the subdivision – even if they would be driving cattle past 30 new houses, dealing with 30 new cars driving past their operation, or having 30 new landowners “managing” their ditch.
We understand that ag producers oftentimes want or need to develop their land and we support that decision. We also know that if the impact of that development is not mitigated, the impacts on our quality of life, economy, and culture in Montana will be devastated by the loss of agriculture as a prime economy. We must balance these two needs and we can at the local level, identifying solutions regionally that might not work across the state. To be able to do so, we need to keep the original language in the MSPA. Please vote NO on SB 147.