Montana Public Radio


The agriculture landscape has changed dramatically due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Concerns about food security, health and safety measures, and product availability have continued to evolve. A dramatic shift to online purchasing has challenged the traditional standard of consumers personally selecting products.

Today on Can Do we will discuss these trends and their effects on two family-run Montana businesses.

Hay bales in a field.

Trade with China boomed in the U.S. last year after a new trade deal went into effect, one which the Montana Farm Bureau says was great news for Montana farmers. The deal was crafted to offset losses from former President Trump’s trade war with China.

The new coronavirus relief stimulus package passed by Congress and signed by President Trump will introduce $20-per-acre farm subsidies. Experts say it will help Montana farmers, but might not be the fix farmers want.

Feral Swine Remain At Bay In Montana

Dec 2, 2020

Montana remains free of invasive feral swine but the threat still looms. Montana’s Invasive Species Council heard that update on Dec. 2 on the risk of the swine entering the state.

Assistant State Veterinarian Tahnee Syzmanski said the state’s coordinated Squeal on Pigs campaign received nearly 10 reports of possible feral swine this year.

Montana Trust Land Revenue Dips From Pandemic, Weather

Nov 18, 2020

Revenue from Montana’s trust lands, which support public K through 12 schools, public buildings and the Montana Veterans Home, is taking a hit from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Shawn Thomas with the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) says agriculture and grazing leases accounted for nearly half of the revenue generated by state trust lands for the fiscal year that ended in June.

Revenue from grazing leases held steady but revenue from agriculture leases dropped by $2 million.

Agricultural economists project Montana’s farmers and ranchers will receive more than $535 million in government payments by the end of this year. That’s a 65 percent jump over 2019.

Kate Fuller is an associate professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics and Economics at Montana State University.

Brouwer family barn near Manhattan, MT.

Barns are the centerpiece of any farm or ranch. Montana features a rich heritage connected to barns. There are more than 6,000 historic barns in the state, but that number is rapidly falling. It’s a difficult dilemma for farmers and ranchers; when to hold on or when to let go.

"Keeping the Barn" from MonanaPBS follows the Brouwer family, near Manhattan, as they struggle with the cost and complication of fixing the roof on their barn. They discover it is no easy task maintaining their piece of history.

A Fair to Remember: County Fairs Weigh Risk of Outbreak Against Financial Ruin

Sep 25, 2020

Laura Stutzman had no doubts that this year’s Twin Falls County Fair should go on despite the pandemic still raging across the U.S. — and several outbreaks tied to such community fairs.

Agriculture officials in multiple states, including Montana, have issued warnings about unsolicited shipments of foreign seeds and advised people not to plant them.

The Montana Department of Agriculture says it’s received multiple reports of residents receiving unsolicited seed packets sent by mail that appeared to have originated in China.

The department writes in a press release the types of seeds are unknown and could be invasive, posing a potential threat to local plants and livestock.

C. M. Delphia / Montana State University's Montana Entomology Collection

A federal review of existing data unveiled an alarming trend for the western bumblebee population: its numbers have dwindled by as much as 93% in the last two decades.

The U.S. Geological Survey finding will help inform a species status assessment by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this fall, which may ultimately add the insect to its endangered species list.