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Rural economic development; Emergency loans for drought relief

The federal government is sending more than $800,000 to further economic development in rural Montana
Montana Public Radio | By Ellis Juhlin

The federal government is sending more than $800,000 to Montana to further economic development in rural and tribal communities. The funding was awarded to three groups focused on building cooperative businesses, a model where individuals collectively pool resources to own and operate the company.

The Montana Cooperative Development Center in Great Falls, which helps create co-ops across the state, was awarded two grants totaling $375,000. One grant will help fund the center’s operating costs. The other is focused on expanding the center’s work helping Indigenous communities build cooperative business models and develop women’s equity programs.

The Lake County Cooperative Development Corporation was awarded $200,000 to expand the capacity of rural co-ops in Sanders, Mineral and Lake Counties and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.

And the Western Montana Grower’s Cooperative in Missoula received a producer grant to expand their distribution efforts to new customers. The 35 producer co-op sells local meat, dairy, eggs and produce throughout a 400-mile radius surrounding Missoula, and will be able to increase revenue by $2.3 million with the grant.

Agricultural producers in some Montana counties are eligible for federal emergency loans
Montana Public Radio | By Edward F. O'Brien

Agricultural producers in a handful of Montana counties are now eligible for federal emergency loans.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture designated Lewis and Clark and Powell Counties as primary disaster areas this week. Nine contiguous counties – Broadwater, Cascade, Deer Lodge, Flathead, Granite, Jefferson, Meagher, Missoula and Teton – are also eligible for assistance.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor these counties suffered extreme or exceptional drought for eight or more weeks during last year’s growing season.

Emergency federal loans max out at $500,000, but the amount applicants may wind up receiving is limited to actual production or physical losses. The loans can be used to replace essential equipment or livestock, reorganization of a farming operation or refinancing of certain debts.

For more information visit USDA’s Farm Service Agency website.

According to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor map, most of Montana’s southern and mid-section are currently drought free. The state’s northern tier has severe to moderate drought, with northwest Montana experiencing the driest conditions.

El Niño is now expected to last through at least spring. For the northern Rockies that frequently means drier and warmer winter conditions, but experts point out that not all El Niño’s are the same adding other factors can influence winter weather.

Ellis Juhlin is MTPR's Rocky Mountain Front reporter. Ellis previously worked as a science reporter at Utah Public Radio and a reporter at Yellowstone Public Radio. She has a Master's Degree in Ecology from Utah State University. She's an average birder and wants you to keep your cat indoors. She has two dogs, one of which is afraid of birds.
O’Brien first landed at Montana Public Radio three decades ago as a news intern while attending the University of Montana School of Journalism. His first career job out of school was covering the 1995 Montana Legislature. When the session wrapped up, O’Brien was fortunate enough to land a full-time position at the station as a general assignment reporter. Feel free to drop him a line at
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