GREAT FALLS, MT (Oct. 23, 2017) – This past weekend Montana Farmers Union held its 102nd annual convention in Great Falls at the Best Western Heritage Inn. Attendees enjoyed workshops on the state of rural healthcare, what to expect in the 2018 Farm Bill, a tour of Pasta Montana and presentations by industry experts including Dean Folkvord of Wheat Montana, Mary Tuck of Kalispell Kreamery and Charles Good of MaxAg of Montana.

Dean Folkvord shared his journey dating back to the family’s first farm near Helena to the purchase and growth of today’s farm near Three Forks. Dean’s parents were Farmers Union members.  He talked about the production of his products and the company’s innovation of incorporating the first resealable flour bag on the market.

Friday afternoon featured workshops on water rights led by Judge Russ McElyea and a presentation on soil health and precision agriculture by Charles Good, president of MaxAg of Montana.Friday night concluded with one-of-a kind presentation by National Geographic photographer Jim Richardson. Jim told the story of agriculture dating back decades and how it has changed through the years. He talked about his many trips around the world featuring farmers for many backgrounds. The combination of his imagery and storytelling made for a memorable presentation.

Saturday morning began with a breakfast sponsored by Farmers Union Enterprise featuring this year’s FUE couple Scott and Misty LeFurgey. The LeFurgey’s shared their journey in the leadership program and some of what they learned. “Even though it’s a short amount of time we developed friendships that last a lifetime,” said Misty. “No matter what you are going through there are others going through the same things you are.”

Saturday’s education featured a panel discussion on the Farm Bill featuring a fantastic lineup of panelists including Lorianne Burhop of the Montana Food Bank Network, Rob Larew of National Farmers Union and Jeff Bangs, a producer from Inverness. The panel was moderated by Rick Haines, Ag Director of KMON radio.

Rob Larew shared his thoughts on the importance of the Farm Bill. “Having that certainty as you are planning for the next year and future years and knowing what is coming ahead is critically important.”

Jeff Bangs talked from producer’s perspective. “The reason we need a Farm Bill is the ability to provide some certainty to our food supply both domestically and internationally. The other point that hits home to me is that food production will continue no matter what, but will look a whole lot differently without the protections of the Farm Bill every five years. In our Farm Bill action plan we advocated for increasing the funding and availability of  the CSP program. If you are an enterprising producer that wants to take that step you are able to. It has been great for people who get in it and also creates a competitive environment. To me it is an incentive to do things the correct way.”

The nutrition component is one that is often left out of the discussion about the Farm Bill, but is a very important piece of the legislation. The Farm Bill is largely comprised of funding for nutrition programs including SNAP. Lorianne Burhop talked about the dangers of splitting SNAP from the Farm Bill.” It would be detrimental to remove the nutrition title from the Farm Bill. It is imperative to keep them together as SNAP makes such a difference in our communities in reducing hunger.”

Among the other Saturday morning presentations included one by Fabian Menalled on climate change and Mary Tuck of Kalispell Kreamery. Mary shared her experiences running the Hedstrom dairy and the growth of Kalispell Kreamery.At the youth luncheon banquet MFU youth were recognized for their achievements with the Torchbearer and Mildred Stoltz Awards. The recipients of the Torchbearer Award were Lilly Green, Levi Smoot and David Shane. The winners of the Mildred Stoltz Award were Logan Farris, Riley Molinario, Miles Zanto,  and Meredith Sackman.The banquet keynote was Parker Sebens who shared his story of triumph after overcoming a tragic farm accident at the age of three which resulted in the loss of both his arms. The audience was very moved by his story.

With the ever changing environment of healthcare, which was a priority of MFU delegates who attended the annual Fly-In in September, a panel on the state of rural healthcare provided insight as to the challenges rural Montana faces with possible program cuts.On the panel was Dick Brown, President of the Montana Hospital Association; Sarah Nordlund, Director of Nursing for Garfield County Health Systems and Beth Ann Carter with the Montana Rural Healthcare Program. The group shared their concerns about the healthcare landscape and fielded question from the audience.

 Jamie Edmundson, the Director of the FFA Foundation, presented her workshop Elvis to Bieber which looked at the generational differences in the workplace. She discussed how millennials operate in a professional environment and some of the programs FFA has in training youth on how to transition in to the workplace.

Concluding the convention was the Members’ Banquet. Rob Larew of National Farmers Union and Ben Thomas of the Montana Department of Agriculture  provided keynote addresses.The night concluded with the Centennial Farm & Ranch honors recognizing the Shane Farm, a live auction benefiting MFU education programs and the installation of officers.  Elected officers are: President, Alan Merrill; Jeff Bangs for District One and Two- At Large; Brett Dailey, District Four; William Downs, District Five; Tom Clark, Conductor and John Wendland, Doorkeeper.

Delegates selected to represent membership at the National Farmers Union Convention were also selected. They are Tom and Joellyn Clark, Scott LeFurgey, Levi Ostberg, and alternate Doug Crabtree.

EVENT SPONSORS: A special thank you to our event sponsors including Farmers Union Industries, Farmers Union Enterprise, CHS, Farmers Union Insurance, First Interstate Bank, Stockman Bank, Northwest Farm Credit Services, BNSF, Mountain View Co-op, Amerprise, Wendt Advertising, Tintina Resources, RBC Wealth Management, Montana Wheat and Barley Committee, 2J’s Fresh Market, Central Montana Radio Network, Malteurop and Montana Electric Cooperative.

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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.

 

Farm Bill panel

 

Youth Award winners

 

Parker Sebens/Youth Luncheon keynote speaker