If you live in the country or in the city…….Montana Farmers Union is right for you. The Montana Farmers Union is a statewide grassroots organization working for family farmers, ranchers and rural communities through conferences, scholarships and other educational opportunities as well as legislative representation and support for producer-owned co-ops.

                                         MFU Holds 101 Annual Convention in Great Falls


This past weekend Montana Farmers Union held its annual convention in Great Falls at the Best Western Heritage Inn. The weekend was packed with workshops on drones, pulse crops, water rights, pesticide management and keynote speeches by Dr. Joe Outlaw of Texas A & M University, retired marine Eric McElvenny and National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson. Check back for more coverage of the event!


Candidates square off at Heritage Hall at the College of Great Falls. Congressman Ryan Zinke, Democratic challenger Denise Juneau and Libertarian Rick Breckenridge debated on issues including agriculture, specifically TPP & the outcome of the  of the farm economy in Montana.


Montanans Advocate for Policy  at the National Farmers Union Fly-In


Members & staff meet with the Montana delegation at the National Farmers Union Fly-In.

Montana Farmers members joined 275 farmers and ranchers from across the country in Washington, D.C., Sept. 11 to 14 for the National Farmers Union Fall Legislative Fly-In. The annual event allows Farmers Union members to meet directly with lawmakers, USDA leaders and other administration officials to discuss issues important to family farmers and ranchers.

“MFU is committed to being a voice for Montana farmers and ranchers. The legislative Fly-In is an excellent way for members to advocate for issues that affect them,” said MFU President Alan Merrill. “We had a very knowledgeable team who spoke from the heart about what they envision for agriculture.”

State members met with lawmakers to advocate for legislative priorities: Farm Bill programs and the farm safety net, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Renewable Fuel Standard and corporate consolidation in agriculture.

In addition, Farmers Union members attended a briefing at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Secretary Tom Vilsack, Chief Economist Robert Johansson, National Resources Conservation Service Chief Jason Weller and Risk Management Agency Administrator Brandon Willis spoke about farm programs. President Johnson and NFU government relations representatives also provided remarks.

“The annual legislative fly-in is an important part of NFU’s ongoing grassroots advocacy efforts,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “Family farmers and ranchers are the best advocates we have for agriculture, and the fly-in is a good opportunity for our members to follow up on the conversations they’ve had with their elected officials during the August congressional work period.”

Member Levi Ostberg spoke on several issues of particular concern including provisions of the next farm bill. “Our family has been farming for three generations. It’s hard with high input costs, even with the family sharing equipment, it’s still unreal what we have to ask the bank every year just to operate. I think the PLC and ARC programs work, but it would be helpful to speed those payments up. Another issue regarding crop insurance is on the malt barley side of things. Currently there’s no provisions to sell insurance for it.”

MFU board member Ben Peterson spoke about corporate consolidation and the potential impacts mergers like the Monsanto Bayer deal will have on farmers and ranchers.“ We are particularly concerned with corporate consolidation. There are already fewer opportunities and mergers like this lead to less competition for products.”

Another issue the group discussed was that of data control voicing concerns with companies like John Deere. “I may own the tractor, but not the data. John Deere has access through a satellite signal to know when, where and what I plant,” said Peterson. “An example of this is the meat packers. I sell directly to a packer. Right now there are currently three packers so there are some options, but if there is a merger and its cut down to two, it will hurt my bottom line.”

MFU members who attended the Fly-In included Ben Peterson of Judith Gap, Levi and Kristen Ostberg of Fairfield and Brian and Barb Mothershead of Circle. Staff who attended the Fly-In included Alan Merrill, Justin Loch, Chris Christiaens and Lyndsay Bruno. Members and staff will continue to work with National Farmers Union and the Montana delegation to advocate for policies including the next farm bill.


Winner of our Harvest 2016 photo contest. Congratulations to Lauren LeSueur! Lauren’s photo will be on the September edition of Montana Grassroots!

Photo contest winner

WFO Trip Highlights Similarities and Differences in Agriculture Around the World

by Alan Merrill, MFU President

Alan Merrill, Montana Farmers Union President; Darin Von Ruden, Wisconsin Farmers Union President; Roger Johnson, National Farmers Union President; Mark Watne, North Dakota Farmers Union President;Doug Peterson, Minnesota Farmers Union President
Alan Merrill, Montana Farmers Union President; Darin Von Ruden, Wisconsin Farmers Union President; Roger Johnson, National Farmers Union President; Mark Watne, North Dakota Farmers Union President;Doug Peterson, Minnesota Farmers Union President

In May I had the pleasure of attending the 6th General Assembly of the World Farmers’ Organisation(WFO) in Livingstone, Zambia along with Farmers Union presidents from Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota and the national office. The four-day event concentrated on many of the challenges farmers face on a daily basis including market access, technology, climate change, women in agriculture, food insecurity and access to land for producers.

The theme of the assembly was “Partnership of Growth,” by which delegates evaluated WFO’s current challenges and potential future actions by the organization on timely issues facing agriculture all across the world.

The event was attended by many high-level officials including the Minister of Agriculture of Zambia and senior UN officials. In addition farmers and policy makers from all over the world came together for the four-day event. Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization ( FAO) Jose Graziano Da Silva outlined a strategic plan and the partnership between WFO and FAO.

In addition to a variety of workshops on many of the WFO mandates including land tenure, access to land, and ways to adapt to the changing climate, I was afforded the opportunity to visit villages which provided a great perspective on how different agriculture is in developing countries like Zambia compared to the United States. In developing countries priorities of farmers is much different. Instead of producing for the masses there is greater concentration on producing for the family. It is a major cultural difference in agriculture when talking about developed verses developing countries.

All in all, the experience was a wide-opening one. I thought the participation from local farmers created balanced discussions and a great exchange of differences while all the while maintaining on a real focus on the issues that affect farmers all over the world. I found that although there are many differences between the farmland of our great state, we also share a lot of challenges. It is my hope that events like this one will help pave the way for greater dialogue and collaboration between WFO partners.

MFU Announces Members Chosen for 2016-2017 Beginning Farmers Institute

Amanda image 1                 Justin and brandi

Amanda Schaub                                              Justin Loch and wife Brandi

Montana Farmers Union is pleased to announce that two members have been chosen to participate in the 2016-2017 Beginning Farmers Institute, a program by National Farmers Union. In all, seventeen beginning farmers and ranchers from across the country are participating. The two chosen from Montana are Justin Loch of Great Falls and Amanda Schaub of Havre.

“We are honored to have two outstanding beginning farmers chosen to participate in the BFI program,” said President Alan Merrill. “They are the future of Montana agriculture and will represent our state well.”

According to National Farmers Union agriculture diversity continues to be a focus of the BFI program. Participants come from a diverse background. The program offers hands-on training through sessions hosted in Washington D.C. and California and concentrates on building confidence in beginning farmers through leadership training.

Amanda Schaub says she is thrilled to be chosen to participate.“This is an amazing opportunity to grow through agriculture, and I look forward to sharing what I have learned with others,” said Amanda. Amanda says one of her main goals in participating in the BFI program is to sharpen her financial skills.  “Farming and ranching requires some pretty intimidating input costs especially for beginners. I want to obtain a solid grasp on the reality of farm finances and succession planning.”

Justin Loch, the second BFI participant, is originally from Dutton where his parents Dennis and Tina operate the family farm with help from Justin and wife Brandi and Justin’s sister. Justin is the Membership Director for Montana Farmers Union. “I’m honored to be chosen to represent Montana in the BFI program,” said Justin. “It’s a great program and will certainly help me the other participants with skills and education to ensure a stronger and more successful future in Agriculture.”  “I hope to bring back new skills and information that I can share with members of MFU but also apply them to the success and future of my family’s farm and ranch to help ensure a strong future.”

For more details on the BFI program visit http://nfu.org/education/beginning-farmer-institute.

MFU launches multi-media TV/Radio campaign to highlight importance of Montana agriculture

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Montana Farmers Union is launching a multi-media ad campaign this week focusing on the role Montana agriculture plays at the national and international level.

The campaign is multi-faceted with two animated TV commercials which includes one: 30 TV/Radio spot and one: 60 TV spot produced by MurMax Productions.

What’s unique about the campaign is the animation component. “We wanted to do something fresh and different,” said Lyndsay Bruno, Communications Director. “The graphics are appealing, colorful and most importantly educational. Montana’s farmers and ranchers contribute billions to the national economy. They are the backbone of our rural communities.”

The spots provide a window into the types of products Montana farmers and ranchers produce. Montana farmers produce 10% of the nation’s wheat and 22% of the nation’s barley. Montana is a leading producer of certified organic wheat, dry peas, lentils and flax. The spots will air on several MTN News stations, Northern Ag Network and Cherry Creek Radio.

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Upcoming Events

Mock Legislative HearingWednesday, December 14; 6:30 PMFamily Living Center, Montana Expo Park
Cascade County/ Headquarters Farmers Union MeetingWednesday, December 14 @ 5:30 Family Living Center, Montana Expo Park
Montana Farmers Union Women's ConferenceFeb. 10-12Chico Hot Springs
Young Producer ConferenceMarch 24-25Havre

Click on the icon above to hear our latest Podcasts from the National Farmers Union Conference in MN.