Agriculture and Food

Family-based sustainable farming and ranching are good for Montana’s economy, our environment, and our rural communities. Montana is a better place when family farms and ranches are thriving.

Our Vision for Montana’s Food System

We are caretakers of Montana’s interconnected food chain. We are farmers, ranchers, gardeners. We are cooks, chefs, butchers, and grocers. We appreciate the connection that food creates among friends, families, and neighbors. We are intentional about the food we grow, raise, buy, and eat because our decisions affect the communities our children and grandchildren will inherit.

We believe that when food is properly valued, everyone flourishes. For our food chain to thrive, we need strong rural communities. When people living on the land have agency to make decisions about the policies and practices that protect our water, air, and soil, we create prosperity for all. We know that informed, regenerative agriculture must be part of the climate solution, and we see how caring for land and animals thoughtfully can restore balance to the earth’s ecosystems.  

We are creating a world where healthy, local food is available and affordable to all, where animals are treated humanely, and where informed consumers support strong local food systems. We are working toward a future where fair prices are paid and all labor is valued so that workers can thrive alongside family agriculture. The Montana food system we are building inspires the next generation to get involved in local agriculture, continuing the stewardship of our working landscapes.

We must advance this work with urgency as we are losing grasslands, wildlife, water, and family farms and ranches. The pandemic laid bare the vulnerability of a food system in conflict with nature and built for corporations instead of communities. If we act now, with bold reforms and inspired cooperation, we can repair Montana’s damaged food chain and ensure sustained, prosperous, and healthful agriculture for generations to come.

By ruin of farmers and rural communities, by erosion, pollution, and various kinds of industrial and urban development, we have ominously degraded and reduced the long-term food-producing capacity of our country.

Wendell Berry, Citizenship Papers

Issues We Work On

Local Foods

Montana Local Food Challenge

Northern Plains hosts the Montana Local Food Challenge each August to challenge you to eat at least one local item each day in August. We host this event to bring excitement for all Montana’s local food system has to offer, and to support our farmers, ranchers, and local food businesses.

Yellowstone Valley Food Hub

After years of research, community outreach, and fundraising, Northern Plains and the Yellowstone Valley Citizen’s Council launched the Yellowstone Valley Food Hub in 2018.

The Yellowstone Valley Food Hub is a co-operative of producers who share a passion for local agriculture. You can buy local meat, produce, eggs, bread, and more on their online grocery store and pick it up in Yellowstone, Carbon, or Stillwater County every Thursday. They are bolstering our local economy by keeping dollars in our communities, and they are maintaining a dependable food supply in our region. Ultimately, Food Hub producers hope to establish partnerships with institutions like hospitals, restaurants, and schools to offer local food options beyond individual consumers.

Questions about the Yellowstone Valley Food Hub? Contact General Manager Michele Schaczenski at michele.yvfh@gmail.com

A Profitable Future for Montana's Ranchers

Ending Meatpacker Corruption

We’re calling on USDA to require that all cattle are purchased in an open, competitive marketplace to squash the backroom dealings that put ranchers out of business and force consumers to pay high prices for their beef.

Restoring Country-of-Origin Labeling for Beef and Pork

We strongly believe that restoring mandatory Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) would be a big win for ranchers and consumers alike. Consumers deserve the right to choose USA beef and pork and ranchers deserve the right to an honest market.

History and Accomplishments

  • Supporting Cottage Food laws at the Montana legislature to improve access to locally-produced foods
  • Fighting for fairness in the 1980s farm crisis
  • Hosting 7 years of the Montana Local Food Challenge
  • Establishing the Yellowstone Valley Food Hub
  • Petitioning the USDA to institute captive supply reform regulations for meatpackers
  • Drafting and working towards the Captive Supply Reform Act
  • Telling the story of our rancher members in the New York Times
  • Member Gilles Stockton testified before U.S. House Agriculture Committee on livestock issues

Our History Tells Us

Montana ranch families initially built Northern Plains into the conservation group it is today, with deep roots in family farming and ranching. Watch to learn what “Our History Tells Us” about saving the family farm during the Farm Crisis of the 1980s and how that legacy continues today:

Active Campaigns

Tell President Biden to fix our broken cattle markets

Tell President Biden to fix our broken cattle markets

In July 2021, President Biden issued an Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy. Sign our petition to tell President Biden to uphold his executive order and restore fair competition to the cattle market!

Take Action
Secretary Vilsack – stop cattle market corruption

Secretary Vilsack – stop cattle market corruption

For decades, family ranchers and beef consumers have been harmed by corruption within the cattle market system. Please take a moment to add your name to our letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack asking him to restore fairness, transparency, and competition to cattle markets during this rulemaking period.

Take Action
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