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Our friend Courtney Lowery at the invaluable NewWest.net recounts a story this week about the failure of the “Farmer Protection Bill” recently in the Montana legislature. Opponents said the bill would make the state “unfriendly to business.” House Bill 445 was similar to other bills in the Dakotas, Maine and California that would “establish rules on how providers of expensive, proprietary seeds (often for genetically modified crops) can go about policing their patents,” Lowery wrote. “Farm country is full of horror stories about legally-purchased patented plants pollinating the next farm, or last year’s seeds sprouting this year, leaving innocent farmers subject to aggressive legal action.”
The bill would have set up a system for determining if farmers had violated their agreements with seed companies and it passed through the House early in the session with ease. When it got to the Senate, however, the bill lost in committee — shortly after six of the senators on the committee attended a private dinner hosted by Monsanto. The company didn’t testify, it just paid for the eats.
The session isn’t over and the bill could still be passed. Lowery’s husband farms and she allows that she favored the bill. Her point is simply that bills ought to be debated publicly at least some of the time. That hasn’t happened yet on the Farmer Protection Bill in Montana.