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.
Montanans Advocate for Policy 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.
Representative Ryan Zinke (R) Denise Juneau (D) Mike Fellows, Libertarian
Agriculture Front & Center at Congressional Debate in October
Montana Farmers Union is pleased to announce it will co-host a congressional debate with the Great Falls Tribune at the Great Falls College MSU on Oct. 5 from 6-7 pm. The public is welcome to attend the debate which will take place at Heritage Hall. If you can’t make it in person there are several ways to catch the debate. KFBB-TV will be broadcasting and streaming the debate live online and will re-air on ABC/FOX/NBC. You can also catch the debate on Yellowstone Public Radio, Northern Broadcasting and streaming live on Star Radio.
The debate panel will include a representative from the Great Falls Tribune, KFBB-TV and Montana Farmers Union Board Member Jan Tusick. Candidates to participate include Representative Ryan Zinke and State Superintendent of Public Education Denise Juneau.
“We are pleased the candidates have accepted the opportunity to debate in Great Falls on issues important to not just rural communities but to all Montanans,” said Montana Farmers Union President Alan Merrill. “MFU is grateful to all our debate partners who are working hard to make this event happen and accessible to Montanans statewide including the Great Falls Tribune, Great Falls College MSU, KFBB/Cowles Media and the radio stations who will be airing live or streaming the debate online.”
MFU reached out to the candidates to ask for comment on why they feel it is important to debate in Great Falls, and more specially what issues they see as important concerning agriculture at the state and national level.
“It is important to debate in Great Falls with the Farmers Union hosting because Montana agriculture is not monolithic,” said Representative Zinke. “Ag is still our biggest industry; we have grain, sheep, cattle, pulse crops and more. Each sector has its own unique challenges when it comes to trade, labeling, insurance, taxes and regulations. I formed my Agriculture Advisory Committee to help guide me on these issues, and I’m happy to have the Farmers Union participate on that board and give me guidance on a number of issues including industrial hemp. Under this president, agriculture is suffering its three worst years since the depression and young farmers and ranchers trying to get started are facing incredibly tough times. I am looking forward to discussing all these topics and showing the clear differences between my opponent and me.”
Superintendent Juneau also provided comment on the issues she sees as important when addressing agriculture. “I’m pleased Congressman Zinke has agreed to debate me in Great Falls and address the issues Montana farmers and ranchers face each day,” said Juneau. “Agriculture is a key component of Montana’s economy, and it is important farmers and ranchers know where I stand on things like climate change, energy production, food labeling and trade agreements. I’m in this race to put the needs of our people and land first, grow our economy, and ensure the next generation has the chance to build a bright future.”
The public is encouraged to arrive early as seating is limited at Heritage Hall which is located at 2100 16th Ave South in Great Falls. The following media partners will be airing or streaming the debate for your enjoyment:
Yellowstone Public Radio Station List: visit: http://ypradio.org/listening-area#stream/0.
Star Radio: http://www.1017thestar.com/
Winner of our Harvest 2016 photo contest. Congratulations to Lauren LeSueur! Lauren’s photo will be on the September edition of Montana Grassroots!
WFO Trip Highlights Similarities and Differences in Agriculture Around the World
by Alan Merrill, MFU 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 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
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.
|Dr. Temple Grandin and Curt Pate - Cattle Handling Demonstration||September 23; 9:30 am- 1 pm||King's Arena|
|Chouteau County Farmers Union Meeting||Oct. 3; 5:00||The Mint, Big Sandy|
|MFU/ Great Falls Tribune sponsored congressional debate||Oct. 5; 6-7 pm||MSU College of Great Falls Heritage Hall|
|2016 Montana Farmers Union Annual Convention||Oct 21-22||Great Falls, Best Western Heritage Inn
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