Montana Farmers Union members and staff joined nearly 400 National Farmers Union members for the annual D.C. fly-in. In addition to briefings at the USDA and on Capitol Hill, members met face-to-face with Senator Tester, Senator Daines and Representative Greg Gianforte and staff representing other congressional districts. “In early September, most farmers are busy harvesting, planting winter crops, and attending to livestock,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “The fact that nearly 400 are here this week to advocate better food and agricultural policy speaks volumes to how exceptionally challenging things are right now in farm country.”

This was the first time attending the NFU Fly-in for MFU member Alice Miller of Gildford. “The NFU Fly-in was a fantastic opportunity to sit down and talk shop with members of Congress,” said Miller. “In a climate of uncertain trade agreements and corporate consolidation in the industry, it is critical for us to share what we’re experiencing in our operations. We focused on the need for a check on corporate consolidation and asked for support of a bill that would put a temporary moratorium on certain corporate mergers. We also stressed the importance and need for Country-of-Origin labeling to help level the marketplace for our ranchers. For me, the experience reaffirmed how slowly government moves and — despite that — the need for all of us to be in contact with our representatives, sharing our challenges and successes so they have our perspective front and center when they make decisions.”

MFU fly-in delegation with Senators Jon Tester, Steve Daines and Congressman Greg Gianforte at Montana Coffee.

The fly-in began with a briefing at the U.S. Department of Agriculture with a great lineup of presenters. Members heard from Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Gregory Ibach, Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Affairs Ted McKinney and top officials from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), Risk Management Agency (RMA), and Farm Service Agency (FSA).

This year MFU took youth delegates Phillip Prewett of Park City and James Van Spyk of Great Falls. Phillip and James are active in MFU youth leadership programs including the Senior Youth Advisory Council. “Being a young agriculturalist it is hard to see what goes on in the world around us,” said Prewett. “Being given the opportunity to attend the D.C Fly-in I was able to see how the political system was ran and was also able to advocate for youth in agriculture to help progress the future of agriculture.”

Member Will Downs listens as Phillip Prewett discusses his family’s farm operation.

MFU awarded Senator Tester and Senator Daines awards for their support of family farms. Senator Tester accepted the Golden Triangle Award and Senator Daines received the Friend of Farmers Union Award. “We certainly appreciate Senator Tester and Senator Daines’ dedication and contributions to advocating for family farms. We are grateful for the opportunity to visit their office in D.C.,” said MFU President Alan Merrill.