By Tim Leeds
Two agricultural producers will face off in the general election in Montana House District 89.
Republican incumbent John Witt and Democrat Gary Gollehon, both Chouteau County farmers, have filed as candidates for the state House seat. Neither will have opposition in the June primary.
The district takes in all of Chouteau and Liberty counties and the western edge of Hill County.
Witt said his 36 years as a farmer and rancher gives him a fiscally conservative approach to government. The fact that Montana was one of only four states to balance its budget last year is something he is very proud of. Government has a responsibility to help its constituents, he said, but it must be responsible with its budget.
"We can't continue to fund more and more programs. We have to select programs with the best results and be more efficient. You know, we just continue to grow government and I'm not sure we're getting the results we need," he said.
Some of Witt's priorities are funding schools adequately and fairly, helping the economy, especially agriculture and other natural-resource industries, and making sure Montanans get fair rates on freight.
Witt, who is completing his second term in the Legislature, has served on the House Appropriations Committee both terms, chaired its subcommittee for natural resources and served on other House committees. He was a Chouteau County commissioner for 12 years before being elected to the Legislature.
Witt and his wife, Joanne, have a farming and ranching operation near Carter.
Gollehon said his primary reason for running for the Legislature is the bleak outlook for agriculture and other natural-resource industries. He and his wife, Becky, run a fourth-generation farm and ranch near Brady, and he wants to change the situation so the tradition can continue to the sixth generation of his family.
"My 7-year-old grandson wants to farm and ranch, but that won't happen without change," Gollehon said. "I guess that's what it's all about, is future generations."
Gollehon is concerned with many issues, including education, community programs and economic development. He said the way to help all areas of Montana's economy is to help its base agriculture, mining, oil and gas, and timber.
The government could help by changing foreign trade agreements to give U.S. ag producers a fair chance and helping farmers and ranchers get into value-added products and direct marketing.
Part of the problem is politicians are too influenced by lobbying and partisanship, Gollehon said. He gave an example of the country of origin labeling bill of state Sen. Jon Tester, D-Big Sandy, which passed the Senate but was shot down in the House after extensive lobbying.
The political power needs to get back to the local level, instead of being in Helena and Washington, D.C., he said.
Gollehon has been active in many community and economic boards and groups, including county planning boards, school boards, the Tiber County Water District Board and the Farmers Union.