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.
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
Country of Origin Labeling
Northern Plains members brought Country-of-Origin-Labeling (COOL) to the Montana legislature and passed it in 2005. We were outspoken advocates of COOL as it moved through Congress with over 90% support from both the agriculture and consumer communities. However, due to flaws in NAFTA, COOL was rescinded both nationally and in Montana in 2015. We want it back because we deserve to know where our food comes from.
Currently, due to a loophole created by the USDA in 2005, any product that has been slightly altered in the United States (re-boxed or re-packaged) can be labeled “Product of the USA.” Not only is this deceitful, but it also defeats the purpose of COOL. This practice is depressing cattle prices both at home and abroad, negatively influencing the market for American ranchers.
Unfortunately, we were unable to pass COOL through the 2019 Montana Legislature due to significant opposition from the Montana Stockgrower’s Association and Montana Farm Bureau. However, the fight to restore Country-of-Origin Labeling is far from over. Thanks to Northern Plains members, the dialogue around COOL is louder and more robust than ever. Join our fight today! Contact Maggie or Caroline to learn how.
Healthy soils provide every advantage to farmers and their communities: higher yields, better water storage, drought resistance, less erosion, healthier food, and carbon storage.
But building soil is different everywhere depending on a property’s existing soils, its history, and its microclimate.
At Northern Plains, we are building a network of Montanans (the Soil Builders Network) who are interested in improving our state’s soil health through good practice and good policy. We host “soil crawls,” public events where we gather with experts to explore the soil health on our members’ ranches and learn what we could do to improve. We also have created an email forum, where anyone can ask experts about soil, share the latest resources, and let others know what’s working for them. If you’re interested in joining the forum or Soil Builder’s Network, you can sign up today!
Call or email Maggie Gordon to learn more about building & monitoring healthy soils and the policy solutions to make it all possible.
Choosing local food first is good for our health, our climate, and our communities. It’s important to know our farmer and know our food that we feed our families and friends. We believe in building stronger, healthier communities and diverse economies through our local food system, rather than supporting corporations who are trying to extract our local health, wealth, and connection.
But did you know that out of 143,000 students in Montana, only 9,000 have access to Montana foods in the lunchroom? All kids have a right to the healthy, nutritious foods that we grow in Montana. We’re helping bridge the gaps between farms and cafeterias so more kids can eat better food.
We’re helping bring Harvest of the Month and more local foods to schools in and around Eastern Montana.
You can help by taking the annual Montana Local Food Challenge, which challenges you to eat more food from Montana farms, ranches, and gardens, and to thank the local businesses that carry Montana foods. The Challenge takes place every August.
For the past several years, Yellowstone Valley Citizens Council (our Billings affiliate) has been leading the charge in bringing more local foods to the greater Billings area. After years of researching, increasing public interest, and fundraising, YVCC and Northern Plains successfully helped launch the Yellowstone Valley Food Hub on December 1, 2018!
The Food Hub is a co-operative of producers with a wide range of skills who share a passion for local agriculture. Their hope is to continue bolstering our local food economy by providing CSA baskets to individual consumers and ultimately supplying institutions like hospitals, restaurants, and schools with more local foods.
Questions about the Yellowstone Valley Food Hub? Contact Brittany Moreland.
Northern Plains has led grassroots efforts in Montana to reform NAFTA and other international deals that give more power to corporations and take away the rights of individuals and small businesses. While we believe that trade is critical to our successful ag economy, Northern Plains believes that trade deals with foreign governments should:
- Restore local and national sovereignty over farm and food policy (which includes reinstating COOL-Country of Origin Labeling)
- Stop corporate giveaways in trade agreements (end ISDS-the ability of foreign corporations to sue our local and federal governments, and end environmental destruction)
- Ensure economic viability and resilience in local communities (wage protections, environmental protections, human rights)
Northern Plains is reaching out to our Congressional delegation to let them know that with international trade we can also stand up for Montana families, Montana lands, and Montana communities.
Montana is a better place when family farms and ranches are thriving, and we need a Farm Bill that supports that. We believe the Farm Bill should provide a safety net for family farmers, support sustainable farming systems, and support an industry that operates on fairness, equity, compliance with regulations, food safety, and ethical treatment of workers and animals.
The 2018 Farm Bill has made small improvements for family farmers but is still a far cry from enforcing the prices and practices that help keep family agriculture viable. We are working with the Western Organization of Resource Councils and other allies to make sure that family farmers have a sustainable safety net, and that there is support for emerging sustainable practices in addition to traditional programs.
Genetically modified wheat is a threat to Montana’s largest industry. Wheat markets in Japan and South Korea refuse to buy GM crops, and stopped all imports following a 2013 GM wheat discovery in Oregon. This caused thousands of dollars of losses to American producers.
GM wheat must be prevented from introduction into the marketplace until protections are put in place for Montana wheat growers, and until our markets will accept them.
We are monitoring and speaking out at the state legislature and in federal rule making to ensure that Montana growers are protected from contamination, or policies that protect secretive practices by seed companies.