BEFORE THE Department of AGRICULTURE
OF THE STATE OF MONTANA
In the matter of the amendment of ARM 4.5.313 pertaining to Noxious Weed Seed Free Forage Fees
NOTICE OF AMENDMENT
TO: All Concerned Persons
1. On August 8, 2013, the Department of Agriculture published MAR Notice No. 4-14-213 pertaining to the public hearing on the proposed amendment of the above-stated rule at page 1395 of the 2013 Montana Administrative Register, Issue Number 15.
2. The department has amended the above-stated rule as proposed.
3. The department has thoroughly considered the comments and testimony received. A summary of the comments received and the department's responses are as follows:
COMMENT #1: The Noxious Weed Seed Free Forage program is important and a vital part of the battle against weeds.
RESPONSE #1: The department agrees.
COMMENT #2: The increase is too much and it will discourage people from growing the products.
RESPONSE #2: We agree that increases in fees are discouraging and may impact participation in the program. It is unfortunate that two funding resources that have in the past supported the program are no longer available, necessitating a fee increase or changes that would likely diminish the program in ways that no one wants to occur (i.e., not available in some counties, not acceptable to our federal partners, not allowed out of state).
COMMENT #3: The increase is too much and it will discourage people from selling the products.
RESPONSE #3: Increased fees do contribute to overall production cost and impact product pricing but should not create a significant selling barrier. The increase in fees is not meant to discourage people from selling products but is necessary to operate the program.
COMMENT #4: The increase is too much and it will discourage people from buying the products.
RESPONSE #4: Use of NWSFF is still required on public lands because of the valuable protection it provides to our environment. People will still need a source of product. Buyer decisions are based on a multitude of factors, including value and price. NWSFF still represents a value even at what could be higher prices.
COMMENT #5: The increase is too much and it will price out Montana-grown straw in road construction projects.
RESPONSE #5: NWSFF is required on all road construction and land restoration projects, so straw demand should remain steady or increase. Buying locally reduces transportation costs, making local product purchases cost effective and a value for the price.
COMMENT #6: The increase is not needed to support the program.
RESPONSE #6: The current fees support only a small portion of the program funding needed to operate an effective and efficient program. The loss of two sources of funding for this program means the program must be supported solely through fees at this time.
COMMENT #7: Are there other places or things that could be cut such as overhead?
RESPONSE #7: We agree with the commenter and have already reduced office space and operational costs. Operational reductions, however, are not enough to address the large gap in funding created by the loss of other resources. The fee increase will allow the program to become self-funded.
COMMENT #8: If the program is not fully funded, it will cease to be used, promoted, and functional.
RESPONSE #8: The department agrees.
COMMENT #9: The program doesn't matter as there are still weeds in neighboring properties.
RESPONSE #9: We believe that NWSFF does matter and the required use of NWSFF products protects pristine weed-free backcountry areas. The department understands the frustration that comes with controlling weeds in one area only to have the neighboring property be weedy and serve as a continual source of weeds. We recommend that these concerns be brought to the attention of the County Weed District Coordinators.
COMMENT #10: Shouldn't the federal government pay for the program?
RESPONSE #10: The department agrees and would like to see federal partners financially help support this program but it is also a state program. All partners should contribute and help fund this program.
COMMENT #11: While it would be ideal if this program were self-sustaining, wouldn't general fund money be a better route to stabilizing this important program?
RESPONSE #11: The department agrees.
/s/ Cort Jensen /s/ Ron de Yong
Cort Jensen Ron de Yong
Rule Reviewer Director
Department of Agriculture
Certified to the Secretary of State November 4, 2013.