Montana Public Radio

U.S. Department of Agriculture

A federal program has awarded nearly two dozen small, rural businesses in Montana thousands of dollars for renewable energy projects.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently announced on Aug. 20 it’s granting around $400,000 to Montana businesses through its Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). Among recipients were several dental clinics, a hot tub business and a hops grower.

Hay bales in a field.
iStock

As Congress prepares to debate another stimulus package to prop up the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic, farmers and ranchers are lobbying for more help.

Inside a farm shop southeast of Great Falls Wednesday industry representatives met with federal agriculture department Under Secretary Bill Northey and U.S. Sen. Steve Daines to voice their concerns.

Last week’s Graying Pains story explored the challenges of family farm succession as Montana’s agricultural demographic ages, and a program designed to connect up-and-coming farmers in Montana. This week’s installment explores the same issue — and a community college proposal to address it — near the state’s eastern border.

Not everyone who is interested in agriculture grows up on a farm, and without the skills and experience, finding your way into a family farm operation as a new producer is difficult.

USDA Sec. Sonny Perdue (center) in Missoula to announce new USFS priorities June 12, 2020. Behind him: Chuck Roady, GM of F.H. Stoltze, Rep. Gianforte, USDA Undersecretary James Hubbard, Ravalli County Commissioner Greg Chilcott, RMEF Pres. Kyle Weaver
Edward O'Brien / Montana Public Radio

*UPDATED 06/13 

The U.S. Agriculture Secretary visited Missoula Friday to announce a blueprint to prioritize work for the U.S Forest Service.

Supporters say it will modernize the agency and cut unnecessary red tape. Opponents, however, counter it will undermine the nation’s laws aimed at protecting the environment.

The same nutrition program that provided needed meals to Montana students during the school closures this spring will continue to feed hungry children this summer.


While economists warn of potential meat shortages in grocery stores this month, livestock producers are struggling to find ways of getting their animals to market for a fair price. Many ranchers in Montana are seeking out more local options and hoping for reforms in the industry. Yellowstone Public Radio’s Rachel Cramer shared her reporting with Nicky Ouellet.


The Montana Department of Agriculture received the green light late last week on its hemp plan after outlining how it would meet stricter federal regulations, including testing and sampling. Some farmers may experience more stringent regulations in 2021.

Montana Governor Steve Bullock announced Friday that farmers in more than a dozen counties will be eligible for federal assistance after significant crop losses from excessive rain and snow last year.

Hay bales in a field.
iStock

The U.S. Agriculture Department predicts American net farm income this year will be about 10% higher than in 2018.

Great news, right? Not so fast, say some Montana farmers.

Truck carrying timber
Bell & Jeff (CC-BY-2.0)

The state and the U.S. Forest Service plan to ramp up a program on Montana’s national forests that uses timber sales with restoration components to fund non-commercial conservation work. The amount of timber currently being cut under the program could grow four times over the next year. The timber industry sees that as a much-needed boon.

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