Page 1

12

Hi-Line

August 2019

FARM & RANCH

www.havredailynews.com

Taking the pulse of Pulses


2

Hi-Line

FARM & RANCH

August 2019

Pam Burke community@havredailynews.com Montana produces more than 50 percent of the U.S. pulses, primarily dry peas, lentils and chickpeas or garbanzo beans, and with harvest season well on its way, area pulse crop producers are seeing a decent harvest, but lower prices and loss of markets has created uncertainties in the industry. “I think a lot of guys were a little worried when they were seeding,” Jayson Hauer, general manager of Belle Pulses USA in Hingham, said. “They were getting a little later than typical, however, the weather pattern really seemed to play in our favor for the most part because it seems summer is just now getting here with the hot weather.” After the bitter-cold February into MidMarch, the cold temperatures just didn’t want to let up in the area. National Weather Service reported February’s normal average temperature range is from a high of 33 degrees to a low of 11, but this year that temperature range was 5 and minus 17 degrees. The March average high and low was 33 and 10 degrees, which was still significantly lower than the normal of 44 and 20. April average highs and lows were about normal, but the coldest temp was 11 degrees on the 29th, which came 10 days after a high of 79 degrees. The last two freezing temps of the season occurred in May, with a low of 22 degrees May 1 and 26 degrees May 9. “Once it hits that 70 to 80 degree mark our crops really like that,” Agronomy Research Scientist Peggy Lamb at Northern Agricultural Research Center said. “When it gets above 85 and officially hitting 90, pulses just shut down.

… It just stops flowering if you have three days of 90 degrees or higher.” That hot stretch didn’t hit until mid-July. The biggest issues, they each said, came for producers who planted when they would on a normal year and the rains came too late to help the plants. May saw 1.68 inches of rain, but much of that came in showers of a tenth of an inch or less. It wasn’t until the latter half of June, which had 2.2 inches of rain for the month, that significant showers hit the fields. Some producers in drought areas north of Havre plowed their pulses into the ground as green fertilizer, Lamb said. Havre producer Greg Baltrusch said he had trouble with a pea crop that was stunted by drought, then when the rains came, the field got a second sprout. Because of the two different stages of growth, they had to sacrifice part of the yield to harvest when the first plants were read, but they did get a yield from the crop. “If anybody had pulses growing and was hanging tight in June and did get those rains,” Lamb said. “That rain just made everything better for them.” Hauer said he expects his producers to do pretty well as a whole this year. “We talked to numerous people that said they started noticing their peas and other pulse crops flowering around Father’s Day,” Hauer said, “and continued to flower for upwards of two and sometimes three weeks, which is not really common around here, so should make for quite a nice crop.”

The Market The tricky part about this year is the mar-

Hi-Line

www.havredailynews.com

www.havredailynews.com

FARM & RANCH

August 2019

11

Montana welcomes back the prairie grass

Lentils. ket, professor Vincent Smith, an economist at Montana State University in Bozeman, said, because tariff battles have shut down trading with India and China, the two largest markets for U.S. pulse products. President Donald Trump first increased tariffs on China in January 2018 as a bargaining chip for trade negotiations. The tariff increases grew to include Canada, Mexico, the European Union and India.

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson “It is a fact of life that peas and lentils, in terms of prices, face considerable price volatility,” Smith said, “for prices can move in ways that are difficult to predict even when we’re not in the middle of essentially a conflict over trade policy with some of the major buyers of those products.” The global market for pulse crops, compared to the global market for wheat, corn, soybeans or rice, he said, is very modest, so

Press release BIG TIMBER — Dylan Hoffman, Director of Sustainability for Xanterra Travel Collection, which manages Yellowstone National Park Lodges, left a board meeting of Western Sustainability Exchange earlier this year and paused to take in the panoramic view of Roger Indreland’s cattle ranch north of Big Timber. "It is absolutely an idyllic landscape," he said, "It doesn't look like a working cattle ranch. It looks like native grassland landscape." Hoffman's view in many ways was a glimpse back into centuries past when bison roamed Montana grasslands, and the ecosystem was in balance, flourishing. Indreland is one of four ranchers participating in a 35,000-acre project to improve soil health and forage for cattle, and sequester carbon in the soil to help mitigate the effects of climate change. Hoffman got interested in the idea through his work with Western Sustainability Exchange, a non-profit dedicated to preserving the best of the West — farming and ranching heritage, wide open spaces, and wildlife habitat — all while strengthening rural economies. The project was launched this year by WSE, Xanterra and NativeEnergy, a pioneering carbon offset provider.  As part of what’s called the Montana Improved Grazing Project, ranchers agree to implement science-based sustainable management practices, notably high intensity, rapid rotational grazing. That means cattle graze in temporary pastures as small as 25 acres for short periods, then those grasses are left undis-

turbed for a year or longer. The effect, Hoffman notes, is to mimic how migrating bison foraged on the grasslands for 100,000 years. "They are hitting it hard and grazing it the way those grasses have evolved to be grazed and then letting it sit, just like it would when there were herds of wild bison roaming the West," he adds. The program is the first of its kind in the U.S., and has huge potential. 41 percent of land in the lower 48 states is used for livestock pasture and feed. Globally, livestock and related land-use changes account for 14.5 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. Recent research indicates that grasslands may be even more effective than forests at sequestering carbon, a driver of climate change and its disruptive consequences. Further, the program helps restore a damaged ecosystem. In the past 200 years, some cattle ranching has caused over-grazing, resulting in increased bare ground, erosion, loss of perennial grasses, reduced capacity to hold water and, ultimately, lower productivity for ranchers. Through NativeEnergy's program, called Help Build, ranchers receive training and funding for improvements such as fencing and water infrastructure so they can increase the number of pastures, decrease their size, and increase the speed of cattle rotations. That means more grassland is rested, giving it a chance to recover. Without the influx of cash at the project's start, ranchers are unlikely to make the investment to change their practices, according to Jeff Bernicke, Native Energy's

President. "There needs to be financing for ranchers," he said. About five years after the program begins, NativeEnergy will have an independent third party measure the carbon sequestered in the soil. Ranchers are paid based on the amount of sequestered carbon credits their land yields. A key component is that ranchers commit to the program for 30 years, Bernicke said. Changing practices for just a year here or a year there doesn't have a lasting environmental impact. Committing to them for three decades does. "We need to make sure they have skin in the game," he adds. The advantages to ranchers go beyond another source of income. They benefit from the increased productivity of the land. More forage means ranchers don't have to buy as much hay. Healthier grasslands mean they can increase the density of their stock. In addition, they can sell their beef as sustainably raised. And, over time, the value of their land increases.  Restoring grasslands bordering the park has advantages beyond the ranches. The elk, mule deer, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, wolves, trout, and other species throughout the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem will benefit from improved habitat. So will the local communities that depend on ranching, tourism, and outdoor recreation.  "This Help Build model is  that much more powerful because what we're doing is creating something that has a tangible impact not just

globally or nationally, but here locally," Hoffman said. For Xanterra, the program helps shrink its carbon footprint and supports ranchers who are Yellowstone's neighbors. The company's key sustainability goals include reducing its carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 50 percent by 2025 compared to a 2014 baseline. While Xanterra has added solar arrays, recycling and composting programs, and energy and water efficiency projects, increased visitation at its properties means emissions are rising. Purchasing carbon offsets from companies like NativeEnergy provides a solution and this program is allowing Xanterra to offset the carbon emissions for 100% of its fossil fuel based electricity in Yellowstone. Xanterra is already committed to providing guests with more environmentally friendly food options - buying 60 percent either locally or through certified sustainable suppliers. The NativeEnergy program allows the company to go a step further by connecting the dots between sustainable food, local ranching, and mitigating the impacts of climate change "It is a perfect program for us," Hoffman said. "It really checks all the boxes." "It's amazing to see the work you're doing have an impact on preserving this landscape, preserving a lifestyle, and ultimately creating quality, sustainable beef products that we can serve to our visitors," he adds. "It was very powerful to see it in person. You can see the tangible difference you're making in the world."


10

Hi-Line

August 2019

FARM & RANCH

Hi-Line

www.havredailynews.com

Pulses: Merrill: 'There's a lot of demand for ... specifically Montana-produced pulses' ■ Continued from page 3 Recent high pulse prices increased production in these crops, he said. USDA reported that the total value of Montana foreign exports of pulse crops increased from $8.2 million in 2010 to $160.3 million in 2016. Part of the decrease in prices, Merrill added, is a natural adjustment that farmers are already reacting to, with the USDA reporting a 15 percent decrease in pulses planted for 2019. “It is what it is. Obviously, it’s not something we’re excited about, but the thing that I am excited to do or be a part of is Montana Pulse Crop Committee. Their checkoff dollar, so to speak, that goes toward research and things like that,” he said, “but it also goes toward domestic marketing, it goes toward international marketing and focusing on those emerging markets — where we have very good trade relations.” On a June USDA ag trade trip to South America with committee members and Under Secretary of Agriculture for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Ted McKinney, Merrill said he saw specific interest in Montana pulses, especially while

in Colombia. “ I we n t s p e c i f i c a l l y re p re s e n t i n g Montana pulses and had a really good experience, and there’s lots of demand for U.S. ag products in general and,” he said, “especially what I found, there were lots of questions about Montana-produced pulses — specifically Montana-produced pulses, lentils, dry peas and garbanzos.” Merrill added that Colombia, where lentils are a popular food, is the 12th largest market for U.S. ag products and the trade agreement between the two countries is one that McKinney repeatedly referred to as the example of a quality trade agreement. Merrill is working on bringing an ag trade team from Colombia to Montana. Part of the $16 billion dollars to help farmers this year will go toward the Agricultural Trade Promotion Program to help develop new markets, and Montana will be receiving $600,000 of these funds, Merrill added. “In a down market it makes it more difficult to market your crop, especially the elevators. The exporters, they gotta really watch their margins,” Merrill said. “It’s no

Chickpeas. secret that it’s tough times … but at the same time, finding emerging markets, you can either sit around and wait and go ‘OK, well maybe the market will open up.’ We don’t know that, so instead of sitting around and waiting, let’s be proactive, let’s find emerging markets start developing those so

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson we that can move some product.” As a producer looking at his bottom line, Baltrusch said he will crunch some numbers after harvest to see if the cost of and profit from growing pulses out weighs the cost of chem-fallowing and income from wheat.

FARM & RANCH

www.havredailynews.com when losing access to a major export market — whether it’s because that country has a strong growing season or because of tariffs — “finding other markets is a challenge and that challenge gets reflected in the price at which peas and lentils are going to be sold,” he added. The White House suggests that they’re in negotiations, but those talks are extremely limited in scope, he said. “That’s a polite way of saying probably nothing much is going to happen on that this year,” he added. To mitigate some of the fallout producers will feel from these actions, “in May, President Trump directed Secretary Perdue to craft a relief strategy in line with the estimated impacts of unjustified retaliatory tariffs on U.S. agricultural goods and other trade disruptions,” a June 25 press release from the U.S. Department of Agriculture says. “China and other nations have not played by the rules for a long time, and President Trump is the first president to stand up to them and send a clear message that the United States will no longer tolerate unfair trade practices,” U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said in the release. “The details we announced today ensure farmers will not stand alone in facing unjustified retaliatory tariffs while President Trump continues working to solidify better and stronger trade deals around the globe.” Unlike with many other crops, pulse producers can’t get Revenue Protection Crop Insurance to protect themselves from revenue lost due to a major market decline, Smith said, so it will be particularly helpful to pulse growers to have access to payments from the $16 billion package. Payments for the Market Facilitation Program will be made by the Farm Service Agency to producers of crops that include alfalfa hay, barley, canola, dried beans, dry peas, flaxseed, lentils, mustard seed, oats, safflower, small and large chickpeas and wheat, based on amounts filed with FSA in 2018. The assistance for eligible crops is based on a single county payment rate, ranging from $15 to $150, depending on “the impact of unjustified trade retaliation in that county,” multiplied by a farm’s total plantings. The full list of payment rates can be found on http://www.farmers.gov — the amount listed for Hill, Blaine and Liberty counties is $15 and for Chouteau, $16. MFP signup at local FSA offices will run from, July 29 through Friday, Dec. 6. Smith said he doesn’t see the Trump administration reaching any significant trade agreements prior to the 2020 elections. “At this point,” he said, “it seems more likely that the administration will seek additional funding for compensation payment in 2020 for the 2020 crop, ... for losses associated with the trade dispute associated with the Trump tariffs, than that there will be a significant resolution between the U.S and it’s trading partners who are in disagreement over tariff policy.” Montana pulse industry is seeing the effects from the loss of markets. JM Grains Inc., pulse crop marketers with offices in Great Falls and in Garrison, North Dakota, made a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing June 25 in Fargo, North Dakota. JM Grains executives are saying that sales have dropped to one-third of what the company saw a year ago due, in part, to tariff and trade disruptions from closure of the three largest pulse mar-

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson Agronomy Research Scientist Peggy Lamb harvests peas from a test plot at Northern Agricultural Research Center July 31. kets of India, China and the European Union. JM Grains was one of the biggest customers for Pardue Grain in Cut Bank, and Pardue management announced to The Pioneer Press July 25 that they are laying off 14 employees. Hauer said JM Grains shutting down and Pardue Grain cutting back on service won’t have much effect on more established companies, which have a good buyer base and may benefit from increased contracts from producers. The Future Smith said the U.S. market has a limited ability to take up additional product — offering as an illustration the amount of shelf space in grocery stores that goes to wheatbased products, such as bread, pasta and cereals, compared to split peas, lentils and garbanzo beans. But where Smith sees tough times ahead until the major markets are opened again Weston Merrill, Business Development specialist for the Montana Department of Agriculture, sees opportunity. “It’s no secret to anybody that the market is definitely effected by the trade issues that we’re seeing with India and China. Those were our two largest markets, so obviously with those being gone — they pretty much disappeared — with our trade issues, that puts a big damper on our market,” Merrill said.

■ See Pulses Page 10

August 2019

3


4

Hi-Line

August 2019

FARM & RANCH

Hi-Line

www.glasgowcourier.com

www.glasgowcourier.com

FARM & RANCH

August 2019

9


8

Hi-Line

August 2019

FARM & RANCH

Hi-Line

www.glasgowcourier.com

www.glasgowcourier.com

FARM & RANCH

August 2019

5


6

Hi-Line

August 2019

FARM & RANCH

Hi-Line

www.glasgowcourier.com

www.glasgowcourier.com

FARM & RANCH

August 2019

7


6

Hi-Line

August 2019

FARM & RANCH

Hi-Line

www.glasgowcourier.com

www.glasgowcourier.com

FARM & RANCH

August 2019

7


8

Hi-Line

August 2019

FARM & RANCH

Hi-Line

www.glasgowcourier.com

www.glasgowcourier.com

FARM & RANCH

August 2019

5


4

Hi-Line

August 2019

FARM & RANCH

Hi-Line

www.glasgowcourier.com

www.glasgowcourier.com

FARM & RANCH

August 2019

9


10

Hi-Line

August 2019

FARM & RANCH

Hi-Line

www.havredailynews.com

Pulses: Merrill: 'There's a lot of demand for ... specifically Montana-produced pulses' ■ Continued from page 3 Recent high pulse prices increased production in these crops, he said. USDA reported that the total value of Montana foreign exports of pulse crops increased from $8.2 million in 2010 to $160.3 million in 2016. Part of the decrease in prices, Merrill added, is a natural adjustment that farmers are already reacting to, with the USDA reporting a 15 percent decrease in pulses planted for 2019. “It is what it is. Obviously, it’s not something we’re excited about, but the thing that I am excited to do or be a part of is Montana Pulse Crop Committee. Their checkoff dollar, so to speak, that goes toward research and things like that,” he said, “but it also goes toward domestic marketing, it goes toward international marketing and focusing on those emerging markets — where we have very good trade relations.” On a June USDA ag trade trip to South America with committee members and Under Secretary of Agriculture for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Ted McKinney, Merrill said he saw specific interest in Montana pulses, especially while

in Colombia. “ I we n t s p e c i f i c a l l y re p re s e n t i n g Montana pulses and had a really good experience, and there’s lots of demand for U.S. ag products in general and,” he said, “especially what I found, there were lots of questions about Montana-produced pulses — specifically Montana-produced pulses, lentils, dry peas and garbanzos.” Merrill added that Colombia, where lentils are a popular food, is the 12th largest market for U.S. ag products and the trade agreement between the two countries is one that McKinney repeatedly referred to as the example of a quality trade agreement. Merrill is working on bringing an ag trade team from Colombia to Montana. Part of the $16 billion dollars to help farmers this year will go toward the Agricultural Trade Promotion Program to help develop new markets, and Montana will be receiving $600,000 of these funds, Merrill added. “In a down market it makes it more difficult to market your crop, especially the elevators. The exporters, they gotta really watch their margins,” Merrill said. “It’s no

Chickpeas. secret that it’s tough times … but at the same time, finding emerging markets, you can either sit around and wait and go ‘OK, well maybe the market will open up.’ We don’t know that, so instead of sitting around and waiting, let’s be proactive, let’s find emerging markets start developing those so

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson we that can move some product.” As a producer looking at his bottom line, Baltrusch said he will crunch some numbers after harvest to see if the cost of and profit from growing pulses out weighs the cost of chem-fallowing and income from wheat.

FARM & RANCH

www.havredailynews.com when losing access to a major export market — whether it’s because that country has a strong growing season or because of tariffs — “finding other markets is a challenge and that challenge gets reflected in the price at which peas and lentils are going to be sold,” he added. The White House suggests that they’re in negotiations, but those talks are extremely limited in scope, he said. “That’s a polite way of saying probably nothing much is going to happen on that this year,” he added. To mitigate some of the fallout producers will feel from these actions, “in May, President Trump directed Secretary Perdue to craft a relief strategy in line with the estimated impacts of unjustified retaliatory tariffs on U.S. agricultural goods and other trade disruptions,” a June 25 press release from the U.S. Department of Agriculture says. “China and other nations have not played by the rules for a long time, and President Trump is the first president to stand up to them and send a clear message that the United States will no longer tolerate unfair trade practices,” U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said in the release. “The details we announced today ensure farmers will not stand alone in facing unjustified retaliatory tariffs while President Trump continues working to solidify better and stronger trade deals around the globe.” Unlike with many other crops, pulse producers can’t get Revenue Protection Crop Insurance to protect themselves from revenue lost due to a major market decline, Smith said, so it will be particularly helpful to pulse growers to have access to payments from the $16 billion package. Payments for the Market Facilitation Program will be made by the Farm Service Agency to producers of crops that include alfalfa hay, barley, canola, dried beans, dry peas, flaxseed, lentils, mustard seed, oats, safflower, small and large chickpeas and wheat, based on amounts filed with FSA in 2018. The assistance for eligible crops is based on a single county payment rate, ranging from $15 to $150, depending on “the impact of unjustified trade retaliation in that county,” multiplied by a farm’s total plantings. The full list of payment rates can be found on http://www.farmers.gov — the amount listed for Hill, Blaine and Liberty counties is $15 and for Chouteau, $16. MFP signup at local FSA offices will run from, July 29 through Friday, Dec. 6. Smith said he doesn’t see the Trump administration reaching any significant trade agreements prior to the 2020 elections. “At this point,” he said, “it seems more likely that the administration will seek additional funding for compensation payment in 2020 for the 2020 crop, ... for losses associated with the trade dispute associated with the Trump tariffs, than that there will be a significant resolution between the U.S and it’s trading partners who are in disagreement over tariff policy.” Montana pulse industry is seeing the effects from the loss of markets. JM Grains Inc., pulse crop marketers with offices in Great Falls and in Garrison, North Dakota, made a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing June 25 in Fargo, North Dakota. JM Grains executives are saying that sales have dropped to one-third of what the company saw a year ago due, in part, to tariff and trade disruptions from closure of the three largest pulse mar-

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson Agronomy Research Scientist Peggy Lamb harvests peas from a test plot at Northern Agricultural Research Center July 31. kets of India, China and the European Union. JM Grains was one of the biggest customers for Pardue Grain in Cut Bank, and Pardue management announced to The Pioneer Press July 25 that they are laying off 14 employees. Hauer said JM Grains shutting down and Pardue Grain cutting back on service won’t have much effect on more established companies, which have a good buyer base and may benefit from increased contracts from producers. The Future Smith said the U.S. market has a limited ability to take up additional product — offering as an illustration the amount of shelf space in grocery stores that goes to wheatbased products, such as bread, pasta and cereals, compared to split peas, lentils and garbanzo beans. But where Smith sees tough times ahead until the major markets are opened again Weston Merrill, Business Development specialist for the Montana Department of Agriculture, sees opportunity. “It’s no secret to anybody that the market is definitely effected by the trade issues that we’re seeing with India and China. Those were our two largest markets, so obviously with those being gone — they pretty much disappeared — with our trade issues, that puts a big damper on our market,” Merrill said.

■ See Pulses Page 10

August 2019

3


2

Hi-Line

FARM & RANCH

August 2019

Pam Burke community@havredailynews.com Montana produces more than 50 percent of the U.S. pulses, primarily dry peas, lentils and chickpeas or garbanzo beans, and with harvest season well on its way, area pulse crop producers are seeing a decent harvest, but lower prices and loss of markets has created uncertainties in the industry. “I think a lot of guys were a little worried when they were seeding,” Jayson Hauer, general manager of Belle Pulses USA in Hingham, said. “They were getting a little later than typical, however, the weather pattern really seemed to play in our favor for the most part because it seems summer is just now getting here with the hot weather.” After the bitter-cold February into MidMarch, the cold temperatures just didn’t want to let up in the area. National Weather Service reported February’s normal average temperature range is from a high of 33 degrees to a low of 11, but this year that temperature range was 5 and minus 17 degrees. The March average high and low was 33 and 10 degrees, which was still significantly lower than the normal of 44 and 20. April average highs and lows were about normal, but the coldest temp was 11 degrees on the 29th, which came 10 days after a high of 79 degrees. The last two freezing temps of the season occurred in May, with a low of 22 degrees May 1 and 26 degrees May 9. “Once it hits that 70 to 80 degree mark our crops really like that,” Agronomy Research Scientist Peggy Lamb at Northern Agricultural Research Center said. “When it gets above 85 and officially hitting 90, pulses just shut down.

… It just stops flowering if you have three days of 90 degrees or higher.” That hot stretch didn’t hit until mid-July. The biggest issues, they each said, came for producers who planted when they would on a normal year and the rains came too late to help the plants. May saw 1.68 inches of rain, but much of that came in showers of a tenth of an inch or less. It wasn’t until the latter half of June, which had 2.2 inches of rain for the month, that significant showers hit the fields. Some producers in drought areas north of Havre plowed their pulses into the ground as green fertilizer, Lamb said. Havre producer Greg Baltrusch said he had trouble with a pea crop that was stunted by drought, then when the rains came, the field got a second sprout. Because of the two different stages of growth, they had to sacrifice part of the yield to harvest when the first plants were read, but they did get a yield from the crop. “If anybody had pulses growing and was hanging tight in June and did get those rains,” Lamb said. “That rain just made everything better for them.” Hauer said he expects his producers to do pretty well as a whole this year. “We talked to numerous people that said they started noticing their peas and other pulse crops flowering around Father’s Day,” Hauer said, “and continued to flower for upwards of two and sometimes three weeks, which is not really common around here, so should make for quite a nice crop.”

The Market The tricky part about this year is the mar-

Hi-Line

www.havredailynews.com

www.havredailynews.com

FARM & RANCH

August 2019

11

Montana welcomes back the prairie grass

Lentils. ket, professor Vincent Smith, an economist at Montana State University in Bozeman, said, because tariff battles have shut down trading with India and China, the two largest markets for U.S. pulse products. President Donald Trump first increased tariffs on China in January 2018 as a bargaining chip for trade negotiations. The tariff increases grew to include Canada, Mexico, the European Union and India.

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson “It is a fact of life that peas and lentils, in terms of prices, face considerable price volatility,” Smith said, “for prices can move in ways that are difficult to predict even when we’re not in the middle of essentially a conflict over trade policy with some of the major buyers of those products.” The global market for pulse crops, compared to the global market for wheat, corn, soybeans or rice, he said, is very modest, so

Press release BIG TIMBER — Dylan Hoffman, Director of Sustainability for Xanterra Travel Collection, which manages Yellowstone National Park Lodges, left a board meeting of Western Sustainability Exchange earlier this year and paused to take in the panoramic view of Roger Indreland’s cattle ranch north of Big Timber. "It is absolutely an idyllic landscape," he said, "It doesn't look like a working cattle ranch. It looks like native grassland landscape." Hoffman's view in many ways was a glimpse back into centuries past when bison roamed Montana grasslands, and the ecosystem was in balance, flourishing. Indreland is one of four ranchers participating in a 35,000-acre project to improve soil health and forage for cattle, and sequester carbon in the soil to help mitigate the effects of climate change. Hoffman got interested in the idea through his work with Western Sustainability Exchange, a non-profit dedicated to preserving the best of the West — farming and ranching heritage, wide open spaces, and wildlife habitat — all while strengthening rural economies. The project was launched this year by WSE, Xanterra and NativeEnergy, a pioneering carbon offset provider.  As part of what’s called the Montana Improved Grazing Project, ranchers agree to implement science-based sustainable management practices, notably high intensity, rapid rotational grazing. That means cattle graze in temporary pastures as small as 25 acres for short periods, then those grasses are left undis-

turbed for a year or longer. The effect, Hoffman notes, is to mimic how migrating bison foraged on the grasslands for 100,000 years. "They are hitting it hard and grazing it the way those grasses have evolved to be grazed and then letting it sit, just like it would when there were herds of wild bison roaming the West," he adds. The program is the first of its kind in the U.S., and has huge potential. 41 percent of land in the lower 48 states is used for livestock pasture and feed. Globally, livestock and related land-use changes account for 14.5 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. Recent research indicates that grasslands may be even more effective than forests at sequestering carbon, a driver of climate change and its disruptive consequences. Further, the program helps restore a damaged ecosystem. In the past 200 years, some cattle ranching has caused over-grazing, resulting in increased bare ground, erosion, loss of perennial grasses, reduced capacity to hold water and, ultimately, lower productivity for ranchers. Through NativeEnergy's program, called Help Build, ranchers receive training and funding for improvements such as fencing and water infrastructure so they can increase the number of pastures, decrease their size, and increase the speed of cattle rotations. That means more grassland is rested, giving it a chance to recover. Without the influx of cash at the project's start, ranchers are unlikely to make the investment to change their practices, according to Jeff Bernicke, Native Energy's

President. "There needs to be financing for ranchers," he said. About five years after the program begins, NativeEnergy will have an independent third party measure the carbon sequestered in the soil. Ranchers are paid based on the amount of sequestered carbon credits their land yields. A key component is that ranchers commit to the program for 30 years, Bernicke said. Changing practices for just a year here or a year there doesn't have a lasting environmental impact. Committing to them for three decades does. "We need to make sure they have skin in the game," he adds. The advantages to ranchers go beyond another source of income. They benefit from the increased productivity of the land. More forage means ranchers don't have to buy as much hay. Healthier grasslands mean they can increase the density of their stock. In addition, they can sell their beef as sustainably raised. And, over time, the value of their land increases.  Restoring grasslands bordering the park has advantages beyond the ranches. The elk, mule deer, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, wolves, trout, and other species throughout the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem will benefit from improved habitat. So will the local communities that depend on ranching, tourism, and outdoor recreation.  "This Help Build model is  that much more powerful because what we're doing is creating something that has a tangible impact not just

globally or nationally, but here locally," Hoffman said. For Xanterra, the program helps shrink its carbon footprint and supports ranchers who are Yellowstone's neighbors. The company's key sustainability goals include reducing its carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 50 percent by 2025 compared to a 2014 baseline. While Xanterra has added solar arrays, recycling and composting programs, and energy and water efficiency projects, increased visitation at its properties means emissions are rising. Purchasing carbon offsets from companies like NativeEnergy provides a solution and this program is allowing Xanterra to offset the carbon emissions for 100% of its fossil fuel based electricity in Yellowstone. Xanterra is already committed to providing guests with more environmentally friendly food options - buying 60 percent either locally or through certified sustainable suppliers. The NativeEnergy program allows the company to go a step further by connecting the dots between sustainable food, local ranching, and mitigating the impacts of climate change "It is a perfect program for us," Hoffman said. "It really checks all the boxes." "It's amazing to see the work you're doing have an impact on preserving this landscape, preserving a lifestyle, and ultimately creating quality, sustainable beef products that we can serve to our visitors," he adds. "It was very powerful to see it in person. You can see the tangible difference you're making in the world."


12

Hi-Line

August 2019

FARM & RANCH

www.havredailynews.com

Taking the pulse of Pulses

Profile for Havre Daily News

Hi-Line Farm & Ranch August 2019  

Hi-Line Farm & Ranch August 2019  

Profile for havrenews
Advertisement