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SENATE BILL NO. 342
INTRODUCED BY D. HARGROVE, C. AHNER, S. ANDERSON, J. BARNETT, T. BECK, D. BERRY, J. BOHLINGER, C. CHRISTIAENS, V. COCCHIARELLA, M. COLE, B. CRIPPEN, R. DALE, B. DEPRATU, G. DEVLIN, S. DOHERTY, D. ECK, A. ELLIS, E. FRANKLIN, L. GRINDE, L. GROSFIELD, M. HALLIGAN, J. HARP, J. HERTEL, C. HIBBARD, R. HOLDEN, R. JABS, M. MCCANN, L. MCCULLOCH, W. MCNUTT, J. MERCER, K. MESAROS, A. MOHL, L. NELSON, K. OHS, J. QUILICI, S. ROSE, G. ROUSH, D. SHEA, P. SLITER, M. SPRAGUE, S. STANG, E. SWANSON, C. SWYSGOOD, B. TASH, M. TAYLOR, J. TESTER, F. THOMAS, M. WATERMAN, B. WILSON, C. YOUNKIN, G. JERGESON
AN ACT CREATING THE MONTANA AGRICULTURAL HERITAGE PROGRAM; CREATING A 12-MEMBER MONTANA AGRICULTURAL HERITAGE COMMISSION; AUTHORIZING THE STATE AND APPROVED NONPROFIT ORGANIZATIONS TO ACQUIRE AND HOLD AGRICULTURAL EASEMENTS; PROVIDING AGRICULTURAL EASEMENT ACQUISITION CRITERIA; REQUIRING NINE MEMBERS OF THE COMMISSION TO APPROVE AGRICULTURAL EASEMENT ACQUISITIONS; PROVIDING FOR PERPETUAL AND RENEWABLE TERM AGRICULTURAL EASEMENTS AND AGRICULTURAL EASEMENT ENFORCEMENT; PROVIDING THAT STATE FUNDS MAY BE USED TO PURCHASE, MONITOR, AND ENFORCE AGRICULTURAL EASEMENT AGREEMENTS; PROVIDING FOR DONATIONS, GIFTS, AND OTHER FUNDS; CREATING AN ACCOUNT IN THE STATE SPECIAL REVENUE FUND; AND PROVIDING AN EFFECTIVE DATE AND A TERMINATION DATE.
WHEREAS, Montana has a rich heritage of family-based agricultural enterprises that foster and promote economic and cultural values, open space, diversity of wild species, and important natural and aesthetic qualities; and
WHEREAS, a diverse group of Montanans concerned about threats to the viability of the state's family-based agricultural heritage and the natural and public values sustained by that heritage convened a policy dialogue that established a set of core values and a series of principles to expand the available alternatives to preserve Montana's agricultural land and heritage; and
WHEREAS, the Legislature seeks to create a program that protects the values and principles recognized by Montanans concerned about the future viability of the state's family-based agricultural tradition and the values contained within that tradition to secure the long-term conservation and productive use of the agricultural lands in this state for future generations.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MONTANA:
Section 1. Short title. [Sections 1 through 3 and 5 through 12] may be cited as the "Montana Agricultural Heritage Act".
Section 2. Definitions. As used in [sections 1 through 3 and 5 through 12], the following definitions apply:
(1) "Agricultural easement" means a conservation easement, as defined in 76-6-104, that is created to satisfy the core values established in [section 5].
(2) "Commission" means the Montana agricultural heritage commission.
(3) "Department" means the department of agriculture provided for in 2-15-3001.
(4) "Native wild species" means the diversity of native wild plant and animal species and the ecological and management processes that sustain them.
(5) "Qualified easement holder" means a private, nonprofit organization, land trust, or state agency.
Section 3. Montana agricultural heritage commission -- membership -- administration. (1) There is a Montana agricultural heritage commission. The commission consists of 12 members. Ten members must be appointed by the governor, one member must be appointed by the president of the senate, and one member must be appointed by the speaker of the house.
(2) Of the members appointed by the governor:
(a) two members shall operate family farms or ranches in the state and must be active in regional or local agricultural organizations;
(b) one member shall own and manage land taxed as forest land and must be active in and represent a state or local forestry organization or business;
(c) one member must be active in and represent a statewide real estate or building industry organization that has been in operation for at least 10 years;
(d) two members shall represent regional or statewide conservation organizations that have been in operation for at least 10 years;
(e) one member shall represent a regional or statewide land trust that has been in operation for at least 5 years;
(f) one member must be a county commissioner or a member of a conservation district board of supervisors;
(g) one member must be active in and represent a statewide agricultural organization that has been in existence for at least 10 years; and
(h) one member must be active in and represent a statewide travel or tourism industry organization.
(3) Except for the initial appointments, members appointed by the governor shall serve 3-year terms. Members appointed by the legislature shall serve 2-year terms. A presiding officer must be elected from among members of the commission at an annual election. The presiding officer may be reelected. If a vacancy occurs, the appointing authority shall make an appointment for the unexpired portion of the term.
(4) The commission is allocated to the department for administrative purposes only, pursuant to 2-15-121.
Section 4. Montana agricultural heritage commission -- initial appointments. The initial appointments to the commission must be for the following terms:
(1) the two members operating family farms or ranches, 4 years;
(2) the member owning and managing forest land, 4 years;
(3) the member representing a statewide real estate or building industry organization, 3 years;
(4) the two members representing a regional or statewide conservation organization, 4 years;
(5) the member representing a regional or statewide land trust, 4 years;
(6) the member who is a county commissioner or a conservation district supervisor, 4 years;
(7) the member representing a statewide agricultural organization, 4 years;
(8) the member representing a statewide travel or tourism organization, 3 years; and
(9) the members appointed by the legislature, 2 years.
Section 5. Purpose -- core values. (1) The commission shall approve the acquisition of an agricultural easement, from willing sellers and donors, for the objective of conserving rural landscapes while providing for the continued working of family farms, ranches, and forest lands and maintenance of natural and public values.
(2) The type of activities that are permitted or prohibited by any given acquired agricultural easement must be determined on a case-by-case basis and must be consistent with the following core values:
(a) conservation of family farms, ranches, and forest lands;
(b) conservation of rural landscapes; and
(c) conservation of native wild species and their habitat.
Section 6. Executive director -- administration -- powers -- decisions. (1) The executive director must be hired by a joint, mutual decision of the presiding officer of the commission and the director of the department. The department shall provide additional staff as necessary.
(2) The commission may expend funds to acquire agricultural easements under [sections 1 through 3 and 5 through 12], without the approval of the state land board, on behalf of the state.
(3) An affirmative vote of at least nine members is required for approval of an agricultural easement acquisition. However, if three members vote against an acquisition, the acquisition may not be approved.
(4) For each agricultural easement acquisition approved, the commission shall use the acquisition criteria provided in [section 7].
(5) The terms of an agricultural easement acquired under this section must be designed to conserve the core values set forth in [section 5] and must specify the manner in which the agricultural easement will conserve the values.
Section 7. Criteria for agricultural easement -- rulemaking. (1) The commission shall adopt rules that establish the criteria and policies for acquiring agricultural easements. With respect to each proposed acquisition, the criteria and policies adopted by the commission must consider:
(a) important natural or public values, found within family farms, ranches, and forest lands;
(b) the threat of conversion of the property from traditional agricultural use;
(c) cooperation and support among neighboring property owners and protection of individual property rights;
(d) positive impacts on long-term agricultural productivity and perpetuation both within and beyond the boundaries of the proposed agricultural easement;
(e) landscape and watershed integrity to conserve water quality and natural resources;
(f) habitats for native wild species, including habitats for important, rare, or sensitive species;
(g) potential social and economic impacts to affected local governments and the state;
(h) regional balance of approved agricultural easements;
(i) potential for leveraging state funds allocated to the program with additional public or private funds;
(j) whether the landowner is a resident of the state, as defined in 87-2-102;
(k) provisions for compensating landowners who agree to allow public access on the agricultural easement. The agreement to allow public access may not be a requirement for any proposed agricultural easement acquisition and may not result in a higher funding priority for any agricultural easement acquisition.
(2) In order to receive commission approval, a proposal is not required to meet all of the criteria set forth in this section.
(3) The commission shall adopt rules that it considers necessary to implement [sections 1 through 3 and 5 through 12].
Section 8. Agricultural easement acquisition procedure -- enforcement. (1) Any interested landowner may seek to establish an agricultural easement under the provisions of [sections 1 through 3 and 5 through 12].
(2) Before an agricultural easement acquisition proposal may be considered for approval by the commission, an interested landowner shall file an application with the commission. The application must include:
(a) the name of the title holder of the land;
(b) a description of the land proposed for the agricultural easement acquisition;
(c) the name of the qualified easement holder;
(d) the total amount of compensation requested for the proposed agricultural easement;
(e) the source and nature of nonstate funds, if applicable, including donations, grants, or gifts to be used for the agricultural easement acquisition;
(f) a description of how the proposed agricultural easement meets the core values identified in [section 5];
(g) a description of which criteria specified in [section 7] the proposed agricultural easement addresses; and
(h) other noncriteria information that the commission determines is necessary to adequately process the request.
(3) In addition to filing the application, an interested landowner and the qualified easement holder shall also submit to the commission:
(a) the proposed easement document created pursuant to Title 76, chapter 6; and
(b) if the qualified easement holder is a private, nonprofit organization:
(i) notification that the state holds the second position on the easement agreement; and
(ii) a statement outlining the specific duties of the qualified easement holder to the state.
(4) For purposes of this section, holding the second position on an agricultural easement authorizes the state to enforce the agricultural easement provisions if the qualified easement holder fails to do so.
Section 9. Program fund uses -- state funds. State funds allocated to this program may be used for:
(1) the purchase of agricultural easements by a qualified easement holder;
(2) the payment of agricultural easement transaction costs;
(3) the monitoring and enforcement costs borne by the qualified easement holder;
(4) contributions to secure additional nonstate funding, donations, grants, or gifts for agricultural easement acquisition; and
(5) any program administration costs borne by the state.
Section 10. Landowner considerations. The following considerations may be negotiated with landowners in return for establishing agricultural easements:
(1) lump-sum or annual cash payments;
(2) perpetual or renewable term agricultural easements, as provided in 76-6-202;
(3) provisions for long-term contract security; and
(4) retention of limited residential development rights by the perpetual or renewable term agricultural easement seller. The nature and extent of the retained limited residential development rights must be consistent with the specific conditions of the agricultural easement agreement and with the core values specified in [section 5].
Section 11. Donations -- specifying locations. (1) The commission may accept donations, grants, gifts, or other private or public funds for the purpose of agricultural easement acquisition, pursuant to [section 9], and for other purposes determined necessary.
(2) An organization or individual offering a donation, grant, gift, or other source of financial support to the Montana agricultural heritage program may specify a geographic area for the use of the donation.
Section 12. Account -- Montana agricultural heritage program. (1) There is an account within the state special revenue fund.
(2) Money deposited in the account must be used for:
(a) the purchase of agricultural easements by a qualified easement holder;
(b) payment of easement transaction costs;
(c) easement monitoring and enforcement costs borne by the qualified easement holder; and
(d) administrative costs borne by the commission.
Section 13. Codification instruction. [Sections 1 through 3 and 5 through 12] are intended to be codified as an integral part of Title 2, chapter 15, part 33, and the provisions of Title 2, chapter 15, part 33, apply to [sections 1 through 3 and 5 through 12].
Section 14. Effective date. [This act] is effective July 1, 1999.
Section 15. Termination. [This act] terminates July 1, 2003.
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