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Contents Harlequin Produce
4-H quality assurance
Hemp, Hemp Hooray
Water court future
Harvest of the Month
Ag grants awarded
MSU ranching degree
NICOLE TAVENNER / VALLEY JOURNAL
NICOLE TAVENNER / VALLEY JOURNAL
MARY AULD PHOTO
When you live and work in an ag community, you understand the hard work it takes to be homegrown. We at the Valley Journal want to say thank you to our local ranchers and farmers for the hard work they put in day in and day out.
Weâ€™re Your Homegrown Newspaper and proud to offer a locally raised product, just like you, since 2004. FARM and RANCH
March 20, 2019 - 3
Established in 2010, Harlequin Produce in Arlee grows more than 300,000 pounds of organic fruit and vegetables every year.
MARY AULD PHOTO
Taking root First generation Arlee farmers cultivate fresh business model By Mary Auld for the Valley Journal
ARLEE – Tucked southeast of town, farmers use a mix of innovation and tradition to grow more than 300,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables each year at Harlequin Produce. Kaly Hess and Brian Wirak own the Montana Certified Organic business, which has given life to a formerly vacant farm. Hess and Wirak didn’t grow up in farming families. They each developed a passion for agriculture while study4 - March 20, 2019
ing agroecology at Montana State University. Hess said farming is an enticing profession because it yields tangible results. “It seemed like something that could impact real change,” she said. “It’s a real service.” The pair came to the Mission Valley for farm internships in 2009 after completing their degrees, and while they were there, they met the owner of Common Ground Farm in Arlee, which had not been operating as a farm for five years. They negotiated a long-term lease for the land and started Harlequin in 2010. Building a business Hess said the land was a good choice because farm infrastructure and equipment were already established there. “We wouldn’t be here without that lease,” Hess said. “When you’re able to not focus on developing farm infrastructure you can focus on producing.” Another benefit of the farm’s location was that it allowed Harlequin to join
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the Western Montana Growers Cooperative. Hess said she and Wirak built their produce business around the “classic” vegetables. They grow staple produce, including peppers, tomatoes, squash, salad mix, celery and melons. “We wanted to grow the stuff people are going to put in their shopping cart,” Hess said. She knew that Montanans like to eat familiar vegetables, and she wanted to grow food that her neighbors would eat. The farm came equipped to produce a lot of vegetables. If the farm grows more produce, it can serve more customers. In turn, Harlequin can attract and retain skilled staff by paying them higher wages, if they’re making a larger profit. This summer the farm will employ six full-time and two part-time staff, plus Hess and Wirak, who work full time on the farm. see page 6
FARM and RANCH
March 20, 2019 - 5
First generation Arlee farmers
from page 4
Cooperative partnership One arm of Harlequin’s business is the sale of produce to the Western Montana Growers Cooperative. The co-op is a farmer-owned business that markets and delivers produce for member farmers who grow produce, meat, eggs and dairy. As members, Harlequin agrees to produce a certain amount of each product for the co-op per season. Along with the lease of the land, Hess said access to the WMGC has been a key to Harlequin’s success. “Those two things were set in place that let us focus on learning to farm,” she said. WMGC solves a number of problems for farmers. Individual farms often have trouble growing enough products to sell to large markets. WMGC pools farmers’ resources in order to sell to larger markets. WMGC markets food produced in the Flathead, Jocko, Mission and Bitterroot valleys. According to its website, the co-op aims to “enhance the sustainability of local farms and contribute to local economic growth,” while providing the region with high-quality food products from western Montana. The co-op delivers throughout the state and to eastern Washington and northern Idaho. Community Supported Agriculture Community Supported Agriculture shares sold directly to customers at the outset of a season make up another portion of Harlequin’s business. Each spring customers can purchase a full season of produce. Customers receive weekly boxes of seasonal produce for 18 weeks, starting in June. They pick up their shares at drop-off points in Missoula or at the farm.
CSA sales give Harlequin early season capital to make investments in labor and supplies that won’t bear fruit until months later. Customers receive a unique mix of fresh produce that varies as the season progresses. Wirak said the competition for lucrative CSA sales is stiff, so two years ago Harlequin began offering customizable CSAs in order to distinguish the Harlequin product from others. Harlequin uses online software to give customers the opportunity to choose the products they want in their shares each week or to put their shares on hold. According to Hess, the CSA program has “really come to life” in the last few years. While much of Harlequin’s produce is sold in Missoula or across the state to WMGC customers, Hess said she also wants the farm to serve families in the Arlee community. She said the customizable CSA is one way she hopes to improve access to produce in Arlee. Rather than yielding an unpredictable box of produce, the customizable CSA is a step closer to the grocery store experience. Customers have agency in choosing vegetables that they like and will use over the course of the week, which Hess hopes “takes some of the fear out of it.” Harlequin also sells produce at the Clark Fork Market in Missoula every Saturday of the summer season. Trials of small-scale growing Small farms like Harlequin face a number of challenges. For one, Hess said, “We live in an industrialized world. People don’t spend a lot of time thinking about where their food comes from.” This means that the benefits of local food, like freshness, environmental impact and local economic growth are often overlooked in favor of lower prices on food from corporate
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farms that are long distances away. Hess pointed out that produce is one of the few agricultural products that can still be produced and consumed right near the source in the area. Other products like grain and meat must travel long distances to be processed. Weather creates a more immediate logistical challenge. Harlequin’s growing season is limited by cold weather, so they can’t sell customers fresh produce all year. Unpredictable weather also causes problems. This year, Hess said, cold and snowy late-winter months delayed the start of the growing season. It can also be difficult to find skilled staff and to afford to provide them competitive pay. Triumphs of farm life Despite the challenges, some factors do conspire to support Harlequin’s success. Hess said compared to most of Montana, the weather in Arlee is conducive to farming. There is a relatively long period without frost. Though the soil is rocky, “the soil around the rocks is really good,” she said. In addition, she said she feels well supported by the agricultural community nearby; for example, she can borrow equipment from other local farmers. Carving out a place in the farm world can be a daunting task. “We had no idea what we were getting into when we started,” Hess said. Still, she said she enjoys her job. She and Wirak work for themselves, which gives them freedom to be creative and make decisions to determine the direction of the business. “It’s a complex and dynamic job,” Hess said. There’s a real-time education that builds year after year, and each season, they learn something from a mistake they made the year before. When it comes to the central reason they’ve stuck it out, Hess says the proof is in the vegetables. “Our produce is flavorful and it lasts a long time,” she said. “Folks try eating it and they find it tastes good.”
Harlequin Produce fruits and vegetables are available through customizable CSAs, the Western Montana Grower’s Co-op and the Clark Fork Market in Missoula, pictured above.
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Homegrown Raised beds allow DIY growing By Mary Auld for the Valley Journal
ARLEE– This spring you’ll find a number of sturdy wooden garden boxes dotting the backyards of Arlee, full of rich soil and seeds. By late summer, they’ll be overgrown with stalks of Brussels sprouts, scarlet tomatoes, crisp salad greens and root vegetables. Each spring the Arlee Community Development Corporation’s Food Sovereignty Committee sells and donates raised garden beds to locals who wish to start home gardens. The project came from Tribal Council member Shelly Fyant’s “Healing the Jocko Valley” project. The effort focused on giving people access to fresh fruits and vegetables, while empowering them to take control of how their food was grown. “I wanted to teach people about real food,” Fyant said. She used grant money to purchase the garden beds and deliver them to the homes of people who wanted them. Retired extension agent Rod Davis provided the new garden bed owners with instruction on how to use them. Davis doesn’t have a straight answer for why people should take up raised bed gardening. “There are as many reasons as there are people,” he said. Personally, Davis said, the beauty of a garden compels him. He carefully plans the design of his garden beds to be aesthetically pleasing. He also said homegrown food tastes better. It’s more flavorful than the food that you can buy at the store, which is no longer fresh after traveling long distances to get to your plate. There’s also an economic incentive to home gardening. Davis said it’s less expensive to grow your own produce than to buy high-quality organic food at the store. If Arlee residents raise an excess of produce they can sell it at the Arlee Farmers Market for a profit. Health benefits can also be a product of raised bed gardening. When people build personal connections to nutrient-dense food grown in their garden, they eat less sugary, salty food that can cause health problems, Davis said. This is especially true of children, who are developing the eating habits that will determine their health throughout their lives. “When you’re six years old, an ear of corn is better than a Snickers bar,” Davis said. “Not only is it delicious, it’s fun to be in the garden.” Davis shared his tips for first-time raised-bed gardeners. Build fertile soil According to Davis, the first step to a productive garden is the soil. Simple garden soil won’t give plants the nutrients they need to thrive. Davis recommends mixing compost or other organic matter into the soil in your raised beds each year. To boost the microbial health of the soil, he advises that gardeners add a few shovels of soil from a friend or family member’s established garden. Water correctly According to Davis, gardening in raised beds is a good way to learn how to water effectively. There’s less guesswork involved. You know the soil is saturated when water runs out of the bottom of the box. He said it’s more common for people to overwater their garden beds than to dry them out. In order to avoid overwatering, put a finger into the soil each day. If the soil feels moist, the box doesn’t need 8 - March 20, 2019
The Arlee CDC’s Food Sovereignty Committee sells and donates raised beds every spring to people who want to start home gardens.
water. If it’s dry, water the box until water flows out of the bottom. The amount of water your bed needs will fluctuate with weather conditions and the stage of the plant’s life cycle. With experience, Davis said a gardener could interpret the “language” the plants are using to communicate whether they’re thirsty. If you identify plants that “speak the loudest” by drooping or browning when dehydrated, you can check in with those plants to determine how much water the bed needs. Plant what you’ll eat “Grow what you’re going to eat and love,” Davis said. One of his favorite foods is fresh broccoli, and Davis likes
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that it continues to produce for most of the summer, so he grows it in his garden. He added that root vegetables like potatoes and carrots are “better than Christmas” for kids who like the surprise of unearthing their food. Perennials yield in long term According to Davis, investing in plants that will give produce year-after-year without re-planting is a good way to get into gardening. He suggests planting asparagus somewhere near a garden bed where it will get water frequently. Asparagus doesn’t require much care and will produce abundantly each spring. Rhubarb is ornamental, delicious in baked goods and will last through the cold winter. Berries also grow well in the Lake County climate
and come back each year. Start with hybrid seeds For first-time gardeners, Davis advises against planting heirloom varieties of plants. Heirloom varieties are old varieties that haven’t been bred for toughness and disease resistance like newer varieties. With experience, a gardener may choose to take on the challenge of growing the flavorful heirloom varieties. Buy new seeds Those who plant their garden from seed should make sure that the seeds have this year’s date on them. The date is printed on the outside of seed packets. Older seeds are less likely to sprout and yield plants. Dive in Davis said the most important step in gardening is to get started. “You’re not going to grow anything if you don’t get off the couch,” he said. He encourages gardeners to experiment and modify technique when challenges arise. “There’s no substitute for learning from your mistakes,” he said. Arlee residents interested in receiving a garden box or instruction on growing techniques can contact Davis at 775-4557143. Those interested in learning more about raised-bed gardening can contact the Lake County or Flathead Reservation extension office.
NICOLE TAVENNER / VALLEY JOURNAL
The benefits of tending a garden are numerous, but can include: aesthetic beauty, flavorful produce, money savings.
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In appreciation Farmers and ranchers celebrated at annual chamber-sponsored dinner By Karen Peterson / Valley Journal
RONAN – The Ronan Area Chamber of Commerce has been in the habit of showing some love to Mission Valley farmers and ranchers for the past four decades with the annual Agriculture Appreciation Dinner. This year’s dinner is on Friday, March 22. Those in the agriculture business can get free tickets to the dinner from local businesses or by contacting the chamber. During the event, folks involved in agriculture are invited to a free steak and potato meal at the Ronan Community Center. The dinner is prepared on site. Several barbecues are set up to cook enough steak for several hundred people. This year, plans are being made to have live music from local musicians while people enjoy their dinner. Event organizer Jack Stivers said this is the 41st year the chamber has put on the event to recognize the ag community and its impact on local commerce. “The chamber recognizes the contribution agriculture makes to this area,” Stivers said. An economic ripple effect happens when farmers and
NICOLE TAVENNER / VALLEY JOURNAL
ranchers sell crops or livestock and then buy local goods like seeds, equipment, fuel and much more. They also shop at local stores and support local programs. Ronna Walchuk helped organize past dinners and remembers when it first got started. “The chamber was trying to think of a way to show appreciation for the farmers and ranchers for the work they
do,” she said. She explained that the chamber noticed many individual agriculture businesses making an impact on the local economy. She said the dinner has been “mostly the same” in the past 40 years. Different speakers have been selected and awards have been given to people with outstanding contributions in the field of agriculture. “Basically, this is a hats-off to the farmers and ranchers and the hard work they do,” she said. “And they need that appreciation, especially this year. They’ve been working in all this snow. I think they deserve a break.” She said in the past her family raised cows, horses, sheep and even chickens, so she knows how hard people in agriculture work. “It isn’t easy,” she said. Besides a free meal, the event gives people a chance to socialize. Susan Lake, Ronan Area Chamber board member and rancher, said the dinner supports and honors the work people do in agriculture, and it’s also fun to get out and see other people in the business and talk about shared struggles like the calving season this year. Lake said she had to get out in the field and clean off the calves after they were born to help keep them from freezing in abnormally cold weather (20 degrees below at times) and a snowy, late winter. She said she will have plenty to talk about during this year’s dinner. “It’s fun to get out and recognize people, some you haven’t seen all year,” she said. “It’s always a good time. I’m looking forward to it.”
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4-H members practice skills at quality assurance training “The most important thing is, if you do it right (raising your animal), there’s quality to what you produce. That’s what the buyers are after.” - Wally Congdon, livestock producer News from Lake County 4-H
RONAN – Leather gloves are a good substitute for a steer or a pig or a lamb as beginner 4-H members learn to give injections or refine their skills. During a workshop, kids carefully drew back the plunger on a syringe, filled it from a beaker of colored water, held the barrel with the needle up, tapped it to make sure there are no bubbles in the liquid, and then, they pushed the needle gently through the leather glove. It’s Quality Assurance Training for Lake County 4-H members. Even if a kid comes from a farming or ranching family, he or she is required by national 4-H guidelines to complete a Quality Assurance Workshop during the first year they take a market animal project and again during their first year as a senior 4-H member. Quality Assurance workshops deal with animal wellCOURTESY PHOTOS being, everything from injection sites and drugs given to Ronan High School Ag Instructor Casey Lunceford checks steers, hogs and lambs to nutrition and feeds. The lessons the weight on 4-Her Liam Wills’ bucket of feed. also deal with housing for animals – making sure they have a clean, dry place to live, clean water to drink and suitable Right: Senior 4-H member Kyia Hendrickson, right, gives food Ayden Middlemist some tips on giving shots. Lake County 4-H’s Quality Assurance Workshop was held March 13. It stressed housing, nutrition, animal Summarizing his presentation, Lunceford said, “When health, industry standards, quality carcasses and overall it comes to feed, when it comes to water, weigh your feed good animal husbandry, according to Jack Stivers, who is and make sure the water is clean. Make sure you are doing the agricultural agent for Montana State University Lake a good job.” County Extension. Cooper Wayman, first-year market lamb producer, said The 18 members attending the 4-H program were soakhe liked learning about feed. “You have to weigh it,” Cooing up the information presented by Casey Lunceford, per said, so you know how much feed your animal is getyour product, service, event tions for tree planting until Ronan High School ag teacher, who discussed feed and ting. He also enjoyed the14,perennial “the shots.” Announcements and business. To get results, March 2019 @ 4:00favorite: p.m. feeding. Dave Brink, Mineral County ag extension agent, contact thisyou newspaper There will be a meeting for “The most important thing,” Congdon said, “is if do at 406-676-8989. 25 words for thinning employment opporwith his pockets full of toy baby chicks and mice, dealt Auctions it right (raising your animal), there’s qualitythetosmall what you of $149. investment tunities immediately following with contamination of food and water and residues. Wally treebuyers planting are meeting. produce. That’s whatthe the after.” Public auction: March 21, Real Estate Congdon, attorney, rancher and livestock producer, took on2019, 10 Senior a.m. Contents 4-Hof memberFarm/Ranch Kiara Sherman said, “I learned that 59337 Foothill Road, shots, inoculation sites and producing a market animal. unit 2. contaminated needles can cause lumps.” Equal housing St. Ignatius. Cash only, subBrink said, “The animals you are raising will be lamb Animals ject to redemption Market prior lambs and swine will be weighed in on April 27 time. 745-0170 chops, pork chops or a ribeye steak, so be looking around to sale from 9 to 11 a.m., while market steers walked across the Registered black Angus yearfor potential contaminants.” Wanted ling bulls from AI sires, scales on Jan. 12. Now, 4-Hers haveEPD’s a busy end-of-winter, available. LK Bar Angus Talking about Brink’s presentation, Payton Cates, senior spring and summer to feed train their animals for the Ranch.and Call Larry WANTED TO BUY EQUAL HOUSING 4-H member, was interested to learn that copper is toxic Guns 406-253-5692 Lake County Fair to be held July 22 through 27.OPPORTUNITY and/or ammunition, old or new. All real estate advertising for sheep. PRIVATE TREATY
Whole estates/collections or single pieces. Fair prices paid. 207-4641
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in this newspaper is subject to the Fair Housing Act and the Montana Rights your product,Human service, event Act which makes it illegal to andadvertise business. To get results, any preference, contact this newspaper limitation or discriminationat 406-676-8989. 25 words for based on race, color, religion, thecreed, small sex, investment of $149. marital status, age, familial status, physical or mental disability, or national origin, or an intention to make any such preference, limitation or discrimination. Equal housing Familial status includes children under the age of 18 living with parents or legal custodians, pregnant women and people securing custody of children under 18. This newspaper will not knowingly accept any adverEQUAL HOUSING tisingOPPORTUNITY for real estate which is inAllviolation of the law. Our real estate advertising readers are herebyisinformed in this newspaper subject that allFair dwellings advertised to the Housing Act and in newspaper areRights availthethis Montana Human able on an makes equal opportunity Act which it illegal to basis. To complain of discrimadvertise any preference, ination callorHUD Toll-free at limitation discrimination 1-800-669-9777. The religion, Toll-free based on race, color, telephone for the creed, sex,number marital status, impaired is age, hearing familial status, physical 1-800-927-9275. or mental disability, or nation-
PublicHelp auction: March 21, wanted 2019, 10 a.m. Contents of unit 2. 59337 Foothill Road, St.Administrative Ignatius. Cash only, subAssisject tance to redemption Positionprior to sale time. 745-0170 Looking for a self-motivated person to answer Wanted multiple phone lines, have prior office experience and the ability to use computWANTED TO BUY ers and multiple software Guns and/or ammunition, applications, copiers, old or new. scanners, typing test Whole estates/collections required, good customer or single pieces. service skills and ability Fair prices paid. 207-4641 to multitask. Pay DOE. Please e-mail resume to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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The scoop on the coop By Rob Zolman / Valley Journal
It’s not all about the eggs – though of course, that’s a big part of it. Keeping a flock of chickens can be also a rewarding experience with many other benefits. Here’s the inside scoop on a few of the many reasons why you should consider keeping a chicken coop. The biggest perk and most obvious reason in owning your own chickens is fresh eggs. There are not too many things in this life that match the “egg-citement” of collecting fresh eggs and cracking them open over a hot skillet first thing in the morning. “A lot of our customers love home-grown eggs,” said Katrine Christopherson, animal health specialist at Murdoch’s Ranch and Home Supply in Polson. “The taste seems to be richer, and they are healthier.” Numerous independent industry studies have demonstrated that home-raised eggs have a far greater nutritional value and better taste than their factory-farmed storebought counterparts. Fresh eggs contain more than seven times the vitamin A and beta carotene, which are essential for good eyesight. And they have almost double the vitamin E and omega-three fatty acids. Another perk, you’ll almost always have a supply of fresh eggs on hand. “Not only are chickens fantastic to have for eggs, they are great pets,” said Christopherson. “It’s kind of a two for one. They become part of the family by bonding with us, while working for the family by feeding us. I love them. I think their great little additions to any family.” Many chicken keepers love to tend to their flocks. Chickens can be surprisingly loving and affectionate and can form a real,
devoted bond with their caretakers. Chickens often follow caretakers around while tending to their chores, rushing up to greet them during morning feedings and hopping up on their laps for cuddles. There are even some hens employed as therapy chickens, just like dogs or cats. Chickens have been used in therapeutic programs for children on the autism spectrum by getting the kids involved in feeding and caring for the chickens, thereby promoting independent living skills. They have also been used for patients with dementia and other psychiatric disorders for their calming effect. Chickens usually eat a diet of mostly grain feed, but they are also active foragers and hunt and peck over the entire lawn or garden searching for delicious little snacks of small insects, bugs and worms. “They keep the bugs down,” noted Christopherson. In addition to being an organic pest control, chickens act as natural weed killers, organic fertilizers and ground aerators in your garden and lawn. Because chickens naturally enjoy digging and scratching the soil to forage for seeds and bugs, they make good helpers for spreading compost. They also eat and disperse weed seeds that have blown in. Because of their skills, chickens also make the perfect sidekick for every gardener. Speaking of improving your garden and lawn, chicken manure is classed one of the most desirable fertilizers due to its high nutrient level and ability to naturally break down quickly. It may not be for everybody, but owning a flock can be a win-win situation with endless benefits that include having fresh eggs for breakfast.
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A program on pollinator habitat and education will be offered this spring by the Lake County Conservation District.
Conservation district offers many programs News from Lake County Conservation District
As the snow begins to melt, the excitement and anticipation of spring has taken hold down at your local Conservation District office in Ronan. Whether you are a large ag producer, a small vegetable farmer, a landowner with a forest, a community member with some space to plant a flower garden or a parent or educator of our local youth, the Lake County Conservation District has a program for you. Over the past few years we have developed several outreach and education opportunities as well as landowner assistance programs and we are excited to have a growing list of resources available for all residents of Lake County. Below is a list of the programs we are currently promoting for 2019: – Spring Conservation Speaker Series: Forest Health and Huckleberry Pollinators (March 21st and April 17th) – Lake County Junior Conservationists and Fourth Grade Ag and Conservation Days – Cover crop cost share (spring and fall) – Soil health testing assistance – No-Till seed drill rental program – Improved grazing management education – Forage improvement studies in irrigated and dry land pasture – Forest health and fuels reduction
management outreach – Pollinator habitat and education initiative – Beekeeping 101 and 201 workshop (April 13th) If you haven’t heard of us or been to one of our events, 2019 is your year. Your next chance to join us is on April 17th at 6:30 p.m. at the Johnny Arlee/Victor Charlo Theatre at the Salish Kootenai College in Pablo for our Spring Conservation Speaker Series on forest pollinators. Janene Lichtenberg, the head of the SKC Wildlife Program, will be sharing information from her huckleberry pollinator research. Finally, our 2019 Spring Pollinator Initiative has begun. This program has two important parts; first, we offer free seed (up to 2,500 sq. ft.) and site prep advice to any resident of Lake County. We offer free pollinator education talks and activities to school groups, community clubs and any other organization that wants to learn more about pollinators. Call to set up your talk today. For more information on any of the programs listed above please stop by our office at 64352 US Highway 93 in Ronan (just south of the Ford dealership in the same building as Republic Trash Services), visit our website at www.lakecountyconservationdistrict.org or give us a call at 406-6762811 x102.
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March 20, 2019 - 15
“The 2018 Farm Bill is the dawn of a new era. There is a very exciting future for those who want to be part of this community.” - Michael Bowman, founder of the National Hemp Association
A hemp crop in Big Sandy, Montana.
PHOTO COURTESY OF THE MONTANA DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
Hemp, Hemp Hooray
Hemp crops could help increase Montana farm revenues By Rob Zolman / Valley Journal
Farmers often look for alternatives when traditional crops produce a barely-breakeven bounty. Hemp is one of those non-traditional varieties that could help. A growing number of farmers have realized the competitive and unlimited possibilities of growing hemp as an alternative crop to bring in revenue. “The 2018 Farm Bill is the dawn of a new era,” said Michael Bowman, founder of the National Hemp Association in an interview on their website. “There is a very exciting future for those who want to be a part of this community.” The Farm Bill allowed for a transfer of regulatory authority between the federal Drug Enforcement Administration and 16 - March 20, 2019
the United States Department of Agriculture, allowing the normalization of hemp as an agricultural crop. One of the most important aspects of the legislation is a provision that allows for protection under the 1980 Federal Crop Insurance Act. This provision allows hemp farmers the ability to protect their livelihood by taking out insurance against any unexpected crop losses incurred during a normal production cycle, such as loss due to forest fires or droughts. Although hemp and marijuana both derive from the species Cannabis sativa, they are strikingly different. Viewed from afar, hemp plants appear skinnier and taller, while its cousin, the marijuana plant, appears to be shorter and fuller. Another visual difference is in their leaves. Marijuana leaves tend to be broad, and hemp leaves seem skinnier and more concentrated at the top of the stem. The environments in which hemp and marijuana are grown are also different. Hemp is typically grown clustered together and in large, multi-acre plots. It can also grow in a variety of climates with a growth cycle of 108 to 120 days.
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Marijuana has a shorter growth cycle and requires a warm, humid atmosphere that is carefully controlled for proper growth. The main difference between both plants is in their chemical composition. Marijuana contains the psychoactive component tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Hemp has lower concentrations of THC and higher concentrations of cannabidiol (CBD), which greatly decreases or eliminates its psychoactive effects. Hemp advocates have often touted industrial hemp as a super-crop with myriad uses. According to the National Hemp Association website, the seeds and the oil produced from the plants have more than 25,000 known uses both culinary and industrial. The many uses include livestock feed, biofuel production, plastics, paper and textiles. It’s even possible to make alternative building materials with the stalks, such as hempcrete – a concrete-like material. One of the most lucrative industries that hemp farmers are tapping into is the production of CBD oil, a medicinal
A 2018 hemp crop is harvested at Crow’s View Farm in Ronan.
“We are going to have a significant market demand that can’t be met yet by domestic production.”
- Michael Bowman, founder of the National Hemp Association
PHOTO COURTESY OF THE MT DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
A hemp crop in Bozeman, Montana.
compound in hemp that contains no THC. It is legal to consume in all 50 states. “CBD is an extract from the female plant that is a popular dietary supplement. The oil has an omega profile almost identical to fish oil,” said Bowman. “I think we’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg on demand. Those of us who have used CBD oil or have family members who have used it have seen some pretty amazing health responses. We are going to have a significant market demand that can’t be met yet by domestic production.” CBD oil products are currently the main driving force moving the market forward for hemp growers in the country. CBD oil has been reported as an effective therapeutic treatment for many health problems, from basic muscle and joint strain to epilepsy and brain traumas like concussion. The Hemp Business Journal estimates that the hemp-derived CBD market will grow from $390 million in 2018 to $1.3 billion by 2022. Hemp is one of the easiest and most eco-friendly sustainable crops a farmer can grow. Unlike major cash crops such as corn or wheat, hemp grows vigorously, soaring to as much as 20 feet in 100 days. It grows in dense clusters that require minimal water, pesticides, herbicides and fertilizer. The hemp plant can also tolerate a wide variety of soils, climates and temperatures.
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Crow’s View Farm hemp harvest.
While industrial hemp is relatively easy to grow, getting a crop in the ground is no bed of roses. There are a few obstacles associated with the production of new crops. In the state of Montana, a state-issued authorization is required for the production of industrial hemp. The hemp licensing process requires applicants to complete all sections of the application, which include indicating the growing locations, seed variety and landowner signatures. A copy of a civil fingerprint card from a law enforcement agency and a $450 fee are also needed. The 2019 application deadline is April 30. Once approved, all varieties of hemp planted in Montana must be purchased from state certified seed vendors. With the spring planting season just weeks away, an industrial hemp crop may just be the next cash crop to boost the bottom line of Montana farmers.
March 20, 2019 - 17
Uncharted waters As it enters its 40th year, the future of the Montana Water Court is unclear By Leia Larsen for Montana Free Press
HELENA — The Montana Water Court could soon reach a turning point once all its old water rights cases are settled. But experts say that won’t be the end of the state’s water disputes. That’s why some lawmakers and lobbyists support mandating an interim study that will examine the future of the Montana Water Court and finding a place for its judges and staff, who are steeped in water rights law. House Joint Resolution 14 requests such a study, with its findings to be presented to the 67th Legislature in 2021. “This is the first time I ever presented a water bill where I had no opponents,” said Rep. Bradley Hamlett, D-Cascade, the resolution’s sponsor, during a hearing in the House Natural Resources Committee on Feb. 18. “This is the right time, I believe, to discuss this issue, to parse it back and forth, and to come to some determination of what we need to do now, so we’re not caught flat-footed in the future.” Hamlett attempted to pass similar bills in the 2015 and
18 - March 20, 2019
2017 sessions, but they either didn’t make it out of the drafting process or didn’t meet transmittal deadlines. In the 2015-16 interim, the Water Policy Interim Committee conducted its own study and issued a seven-page report on the water court’s future. The study mostly reviewed the state’s water law history, then briefly mentioned that, within the next decade, there may be little left for the water court to do. Still, Rep. Zach Brown, D-Bozeman, supports a water court study specifically approved by, and presented to, the entire Legislature. Brown serves on the Water Policy Interim Committee with Hamlett. Lawmakers are often intimidated by the depth and nuance of the state’s water law, Brown said. “With term limits and limited expertise on water anyway, in the Legislature I bet five people out of 150 have a savvy understanding of water rights,” Brown said. That makes it all the more important to keep the water court issue in front of legislators, he said. The ‘look-back period’ When Montana citizens were drafting a new constitution in the 1970s, the state’s system for tracking water rights was a morass. The state generally recognized the Western tenet of “prior appropriation,” meaning whoever first put a certain amount of water to use owned claim to that water. But that “first in time, first in right” concept wasn’t officially codified.
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In those early days, a Montana farmer or miner might file her claim at the local courthouse. But in many other cases, a water user created no legal paper trail. He just started irrigating. District courts sorted out who could use what in times of drought. That all changed in 1973 when the Legislature passed the Water Use Act. The law charged the Department of Natural Resources (which later became the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation) with sorting out who was “first in time” and thus had right to water in the state. With each claimed right, the department had to calculate the volume of water historically diverted and the purpose it was diverted for. The department hit obstacles almost immediately. “It’s referred to as the ‘look-back period’ issue,” Brown said. “We should have good record of all the [water] changes that have been made since 1973, but prior to that, it’s all based on someone’s word or Grandpa’s word-of-mouth description … the whole system is based on trust.” In 1979, the Legislature passed a law creating the Montana Water Court to adjudicate the deluge of water claims prior to 1973. DNRC received a total of 219,000 claims after setting an April 1982 filing deadline. The water court is still sorting through those claims today. “There’s just a lack of understanding about why this process has taken longer than anyone ever thought it would,” said Chief Water Judge Russ McElyea. “It’s litigation, and
litigation is complicated. We’re here to resolve questions, hopefully not create them.” The Supreme Court appointed McElyea as chief water judge in 2012. Before that, he served as the water court’s associate judge. Resolving all of Montana’s pre-1973 water rights claims, McElyea said, “is probably the most complex piece of litigation in the Western United States.” It’s so complex that the judge can’t even pinpoint how many claims are left for the court to review. That’s because the process is designed to be adversarial – a person makes a claim on water, which the state assumes is valid unless someone disputes it. “We don’t adjudicate every single water right claim that was filed. We only adjudicate claims that have received an objection,” McElyea said. Part of the adjudication delay, McElyea said, comes from fluctuating funds and resources allocated to the water court over time. Some of the hold-ups are due to contentious claims that require a lot of litigation. The water court is also charged with reviewing objections to water compacts with Indian tribes and federal agencies. The court rules on water rights cases at national parks, for example. If the water compact with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes isn’t ratified, the water court will inevitably have more disputes to resolve. “There’s around 10,000 claims CSKT has filed. That’s a number we’d have to look at,” McElyea said. “Whether we end up adjudicating all those or not depends on whether they receive objections or not.” see page 20
Montana’s water court is still sorting through some 219,000 claims made prior to April 1982.
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Montana water court
from page 19
Each water claim is categorized by drainage basin, and the water court’s ultimate goal is to deliver final decrees on each basin. One contested water right can postpone a final decree for an entire basin. A 2009 legislative audit anticipated that litigation on pre-1973 water rights would end by 2028, opening the way for final decrees. McElyea doubts the court will hit that 2028 target. “That deadline is one I stepped away from last year,” he said. “There are too many variables out there to get in the business of trying to forecast when something this complex is going to be brought to a close.” McElyea said he has no way of knowing how many more objections might be filed (at least 10 basins haven’t reached or only recently reached the objection deadlines, and several others still allow for extensions), but when the court issued temporary preliminary decrees on basins — the first step in the court’s adjudication — about 50 percent of the claims were contested. But the end is in sight, McElyea said. The court has since issued preliminary decrees — the second step in the process — on 83 of Montana’s 85 water basins. After an initial assessment, McElyea said, those preliminary decrees have an objection rate between 10 and 20 percent. Once those objections are settled, the basins will have final decrees and the Montana Water Court will have served its purpose. According to law, new water rights are issued by DNRC. DNRC also approves changes in the ways water
rights are diverted or used. Disputes over settled rights are litigated in district court. The water court exists only to resolve old claims. Gaps and holes Water issues aren’t likely to dry up, however, and no one is more steeped in Montana’s water nuances than the staff at the water court, Brown said. That’s why he supports a study and some sort of continuation of the court. “I can’t imagine that we kick them to the curb or dissolve them. There’s so much expertise there,” Brown said. “There are big holes in the way the process works. We may get to the end and realize there are gaps in the whole system.” One of those potential gaps lies with changing technology, Brown said. Before 1973, a farmer may have used flood irrigation. Generations later, that farm may have switched to pivot sprinklers, with no one reporting the change to DNRC. When such issues arise, district judges — inundated with other issues, like drugs and crime — are reluctant to take them on, Brown said. “The appetite of your average district court judge is very low for working on water issues, and the understanding is very low,” Brown said. McElyea said he has another concern about water cases falling to district courts. “Rivers flow through multiple districts in a lot of cases,” he said. “People try to cherry-pick the judge that will give them the best result.” A statewide water court with experience in water right claims could take that caseload from the district courts. Once the Montana Water Court finishes its adjudication, McElyea said, it’s inevitable more issues will bubble up.
A changing climate means more drought and less water than users are accustomed to. More Montana water is claimed than flows through the state. Meanwhile, the state’s population is growing. “There’s a gap between the paper rights the court issues and what’s happening out there on the countryside,” McElyea said. Montanans’ attitudes about water are shifting, too, which is driving an evolution in water law. During the first chapter of Montana’s water rights history, the predominant water uses were mining and agriculture. Today, developers are converting farmland to subdivisions. More people turn to streams and rivers for recreation. Conservationists have raised awareness about the benefits of high-quality water flows to fish and wildlife. “The controversy over water is always going to be there, it’s never going to be static,” McElyea said. “I think there was a perception that the completion of adjudication marked the end of water conflict … It’s just a fork in the road, it’s just a milestone. It’s not the end, it will never be the end.” Representatives of NorthWestern Energy, Rocky Mountain Stockgrowers Association, Montana Water Resources Association, and Montana Trout Unlimited voiced support for HJ 14. It awaits a vote in the House Natural Resources Committee. (Leia Larsen is an award-winning reporter who has covered the environment and public policy in Colorado, Utah, and now the Montana capital. She has a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Colorado Boulder.)
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‘Harvest of the Month’ program cultivates curious local eaters By Mary Auld for the Valley Journal
POLSON – It was a typical lunch in the school cafeteria, but there was a buzz in the air. It was Harvest of the Month taste test day. Kindergarten and first graders dipped peas and carrots into creamy magenta hummus flavored with local beets and contemplated their opinions of the novel flavor. The beets were processed at Mission Mountain Food Enterprise Center and sourced from Montana farms. After tasting, each child cast their vote — did they just try it, did they like it or did they love it? Polson’s FoodCorps service member Elayna Shapiro facilitates monthly taste tests at the elementary and middle schools with an intent to urge children toward loving locally grown produce. The taste tests are part of the statewide Harvest of the Month program, which highlights one Montana-grown food each month in schools and institutions across the state. According to the Harvest of the Month website the program strives “to expose children and adults to new, healthy foods and to support Montana’s farmers and ranchers.” Shapiro said Harvest of the Month program serves a variety of functions in the Polson schools. For one, it gives students an opportunity to develop a taste for healthy foods. “This can help us make better choices on how we source our food and how we feed ourselves,” she said. The program encourages students to be courageous in trying
Polson school children taste test Montanagrown foods once a month as part of a statewide program that exposes children and adults to new healthy foods while supporting Montana’s farmers and ranchers.
see page 22
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Harvest of the Month
from page 21
unfamiliar foods. It also supports local growers by creating a market for food products. JB Capdeville, Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program coordinator, said the program benefits small farmers in the region. “We support small, young farms in our area, and in the school district, we allow the kids to learn and know that these products are grown geographically close to them,” Capdeville said. Last October, kids sampled crisp apples grown on Finley Point, and in December, it was surplus carrots from Fresh Roots Farm in Polson. In March, students will try local beef. Harvest of the Month helps students understand the agricultural landscape of their home. Many children are familiar with local beef from seeing fields of cattle in the area but fewer know about the abundance of small vegetable farms in the region, Shapiro said. Most of the food students eat during school lunch or from the grocery store was grown far away and shipped to the area. Often, products grown at large scale farms in other parts of the country are less expensive than local produce. In addition to learning about the health benefits of the Harvest of the Month, students learn about where the foods come from. The food for the taste tests are sourced from Montana farms, and photos or information about those farms is provided along with the taste test. “We get carrots from five miles away, potatoes from three miles away, apples from 25 miles away,” Capdeville said. “If you’re driving down the road a kid can say, ‘Hey Mom, I had apples from there.’” Montana Farm to School implements the statewide Harvest of the Month program, which is a program of Montana State University’s Montana Team Nutrition. The Polson School District has implemented Harvest of the Month since it was a pilot program in 2015. Today there are 12 products highlighted by the program throughout the year, from squash to lentils and then dairy. As the FoodCorps service member, Shapiro’s role is to get kids excited about healthy, local food from a young age. Shapiro said students are often hesitant to try unfamiliar foods, but she encourages them to take a taste. She said it could take quite a few trial runs before a student comes to like an unfamiliar food. After learning about local products and tasting them in a cultivated environment, students are more likely to choose to eat the food at home and on their school lunch trays. Polson students are introduced to the Harvest of the Month in a variety of ways. Shapiro teaches cooking and nutrition classes during school, and she often focuses on
A “Harvest of the Month” taster shares his opinion of the fare.
the Harvest of the Month item. For example, when Shapiro visited classrooms in February, she taught children about the ways eating beets would benefit their heart health. Then, she said, when they saw the food at the taste test it was familiar and the students knew how it would benefit their bodies. She also let them know that beets are a great product to grow in Polson because they can grow to maturity despite the short growing season. Shapiro said allowing kids to get hands on with the food through gardening or cooking lessons improves their willingness to give it a try. “When they’re able to see their
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snack come together they’re more excited about trying it,” she said. In addition to learning about the Harvest of the Month in class, Polson’s food service department features Harvest of the Month items on the lunch menu each month. Together, the efforts benefit students and local growers. “It’s part of building a system,” Capdeville said. “We incorporate cooks, teachers and farmers so kids can decide to eat healthy.”
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USDA, FDA announce formal agreement to regulate cell-cultured food products News from the USDA
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Food and Drug Administration announced a formal agreement to jointly oversee the production of human food products derived from the cells of livestock and poultry. FSIS and FDA released a formal agreement to address the regulatory oversight of human food produced using this new technology. The formal agreement describes the oversight roles and responsibilities for both agencies and how the agencies will collaborate to regulate the development and entry of these products into commerce. This shared regulatory approach will ensure that cell-cultured products derived from the cell lines of livestock and poultry are produced safely and are accurately labeled. “Consumers trust the USDA mark of inspection to ensure safe, wholesome and accurately labeled products,” said USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Mindy Brashears. “We look forward to continued collaboration with FDA and our stakeholders to safely regulate these new products and ensure parity in labeling.” “We recognize that our stakeholders want clarity on how we will move forward with a regulatory regime to ensure the safety and proper labeling of these cell-cul-
The formal agreement outlines the roles and responsibilities for both agencies to regulate cell-cultured or lab grown proteins as they enter the marketplace. tured human food products while continuing to encourage innovation,” said Frank Yiannas, FDA Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response. “Collaboration between USDA and FDA will allow us to draw upon the unique expertise of each agency in addressing the many important technical and regulatory considerations that can arise with the development of animal cell-cultured food products for human consumption.” Under the formal agreement, the agencies agree upon a joint regulatory framework wherein FDA oversees cell collection, cell banks, and cell growth and differentiation. A transition from FDA to FSIS oversight will occur during the cell harvest stage. FSIS will oversee the production and labeling of human food products derived from the cells of livestock and poultry. On Oct. 23-24, 2018, FSIS and FDA held a joint
public meeting to discuss the use of cell culture technology to develop products derived from livestock and poultry. The public meeting focused on the potential hazards, oversight considerations, and labeling of cellcultured food products derived from livestock and poultry. To view the recorded webinar from the public meeting on the FSIS website atwww.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/newsroom/meetings/past-meetings. To view the Formal Agreement, visit the FSIS website atwww.fsis.usda.gov/formalagreement or the FDA website atwww.fda.gov/Food/InternationalInteragencyCoordination/DomesticInteragencyAgreements/ UCM632752.htm. The FSIS, an agency within the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is the public health agency responsible for ensuring that nation’s meat, poultry, and egg products are safe, wholesome, and accurately labeled. The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.
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Bill aims to block DNRC from acquiring water rights from state land lessees By Leia Larsen for Montana Free Press
HELENA — The old Western adage that “whiskey’s for drinking, water is for fighting over” is repeated so often it’s almost become a cliché. But water is always a hot topic in the Treasure State, and a classic Western water fight is playing out in the Legislature over a bill that would address who can lay claim to water diverted from private lands for use on state lands. When property owners with water rights lease land from the state, specifically school trust lands, they can build pipes from their private wells or springs and use the water to irrigate crops or raise livestock on that land. Montana’s Department of Natural Resources and Conservation claims it owns a stake in the water that’s used on state lands, however, even after the water right holder’s lease expires. That has some lessees concerned. Rep. Alan Redfield, a Republican and rancher from Livingston, is carrying House Bill 286, which would bar the state from acquiring ownership of water channeled from private lands. Lawmakers on the House Natural Resources Committee heard testimony on the bill last month. “We’re trying to keep these water rights where they belong, but we’re constantly bombarded,” Redfield during a Feb. 13 hearing. “It’s costing us thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees.” Liv Stavick with the Montana Farm Bureau called the state’s claims a “usurping” of private water rights and said it could deter future use of state lands. “Let’s say the state can now lay a claim to your water right. Let’s say they can do so without due process. Do you think that landowner will choose to put water on their state lease? I can tell you I certainly would not recommend it to my members,” Stavick said. But Shawn Thomas, DNRC trust lands division administrator, pointed to a bedrock tenet of water law in the West, including in Montana: the beneficial use concept. “Water rights are defined by the point of beneficial use, not the point of diversion,” Thomas said at the hearing. In other words, a farmer can divert water from a river miles away and move it to her property with pipes or canals. The person who owns the land where the water is diverted doesn’t own the water. The farmer owns the water because she’s putting it to the beneficial use of growing crops or raising livestock. The same concept applies to groundwater and wells, according to DNRC. “Lots of folks have water rights where surface water is diverted far away from where it’s being used,” Thomas said. “Groundwater has not been distinguished differently from any surface right.” The Trust Lands Management Division must maximize the value of its lands for the benefit of public education. Revenue that the division collects — whether from agricultural leases, timber harvesting or mining — is piped to Montana schools. “We’re out here managing these lands and advocating for these beneficiaries, and holding to the fact that we have this mission and this mandate that’s clear and direct, to go out and do good things, to generate revenue for the kids,” Thomas said. In 2018, agricultural and grazing leases generated more than $26 million for state schools. Losing the water that improves agricultural state lands could decrease the value of those lands.
NICOLE TAVENNER / VALLEY JOURNAL
After its first reading in the senate, HB 286, which seeks to revise water right laws related to state water claims, was scheduled for hearing by the Senate Natural Resources committee on March 18.
The ripple effects of water on state lands HB 286 creates a temporary water right that allows a water right holder to use his water on state lands, then reclaim the full water right after the lease ends. The bill also specifies that the state can’t claim an ownership interest in water diverted from private land and used on leased state lands. That provision applies retroactively, which means the state could lose claim to hundreds of water rights it has already proved ownership of in court, according to Brian Bramblett, an attorney for DNRC. “With the exception of [one] case, I’m not aware of any cases where the water court determined the state wasn’t the owner of a water right beneficially used on trust lands, regardless of where the point of diversion was,” Bramblett said. That one case, 43A-A, is where things get muddy. It involves an irrigator who occasionally used surplus water on leased state trust lands. In 2000, the Montana Water Court ruled that the state couldn’t claim a lessee’s water if it was only temporarily used on state lands. The decision also notes that, in 1991, an irrigator in the case attempted to transfer the same water rights to the Department of State Lands (the predecessor to DNRC’s Trust Lands Management Division), but the department declined since the point of diversion was not on state land. The Water Court was created in 1979 to wade through hundreds of thousands of cases that flooded the state after the Legislature established Montana’s first formal water rights laws in 1973. HB 286 supporters say the court’s ruling on 43A-A also proves that a water right holder gets to keep his water if he diverts it from private land to state land. “It says that a water right owner can’t be divested of a property right except through constitutional power, such
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as eminent domain,” said Krista Lee Evans, executive director of the Senior Water Rights Association. “And at least in that instance, there would be a process and compensation for the loss of the property right.” But opponents of HB 286 point to another case, from 1985, which ruled if water is diverted or developed on state lands, title to the water belongs to the state. In Dept. of State Lands vs. Pettibone, the Montana Supreme Court found that lessees act on behalf of the state. The court further noted that if an irrigator lost her lease but retained all water rights, the irrigator could influence the way the state land is used, since “control of water means control of the land itself ” in the arid West. That irrigator could meddle with the bidding process for future leases by refusing to provide water or selling it at an inflated price. Not all lawmakers on the House Natural Resources Committee were persuaded by the state’s arguments, however. “From what I’m hearing, if I lend you my roller skates, you get to keep my roller skates,” said Rep. Steve Gunderson, R-Libby. “I don’t see where the landowner or water right owner is being reimbursed for use of his water. I see a taking, and that’s all I see.” The Montana Farm Bureau, the Senior Water Rights Coalition, the Montana Stockgrowers Association, the Montana Water Resources Association, the Montana Well Drillers Association, and the Montana Farmers Union also spoke in favor of HB 286. The committee closed the nearly two-hour hearing without taking a vote. (Leia Larsen is an award-winning reporter who has covered the environment and public policy in Colorado, Utah, and now the Montana capital. She has a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Colorado Boulder. Contact her firstname.lastname@example.org or 406-465-3386.) March 20, 2019 - 27
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Gov. Bullock, Ag Development Council announce over $400,000 in growth through grants News from the Montana governor’s office
MONTANA – Governor Steve Bullock and the Agriculture Development Council today announced the recipients of $447,300 in grants to agricultural businesses and organizations. A total of 20 businesses and organizations were awarded funds through the Growth Through Agriculture program. “From hops to aquaculture, this year’s crop of grants from the Growth Through Agriculture program are a great reflection of the growing diversity of Montana’s ag industry,” said Governor Bullock. “These grants are helping producers and businesses add value, scale up, and access new markets, all while promoting and expanding Montana’s most important industry.” Montana Craft Malt of Butte was awarded a $50,000 grant to assist with the purchase of equipment for their new grain malting innovation center. The innovation center will provide producers and value-added ag businesses with a space to research and test new end uses for malted products. Montana Sheep Company of Fort Shaw was awarded a $8,500 grant for marketing and equipment costs for their value-added
wool business. The company is using Montana wool to create a new line of high-end wool blankets. The GTA program was established by the legislature to strengthen and diversify Montana’s agriculture industry by developing new agricultural products and processes. GTA grants and loans are awarded by the Agriculture Development Council, a seven-member committee appointed by the governor. GTA funding requires the investment of at least $1 in matching funds for every $1 in grant or loan assistance received. The Montana Department of Agriculture’s mission is to protect producers and consumers, and to enhance and develop agriculture and allied industries. For more information on the Montana Department of Agriculture, visit agr.mt.gov. 2019 Growth Through Agriculture Program Awards in Lake County: Native Seed Foundation – Polson Grant for $16,500 to assist with the purchase of seed processing equipment and training costs. Fat Robin Orchard – Polson Grant for $17,700 to assist with the construction of a new value-added cherry processing facility.
“From hops to aquaculture, this year’s crop of grants from the Growth through Agriculture program are a great reflection of the growing diversity of Montana’s ag industry.” - Montana Governor Steve Bullock
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MSU to offer new ranching systems bachelor’s degree By Anne Cantrell, MSU News Service
MONTANA — A new ranching systems degree that is expected to help sustain the agricultural heritage of the northern Great Plains and Intermountain West will be offered at Montana State University beginning this fall as part of a new umbrella program. The program, called the Dan Scott Ranch Management Program, was approved today by the Montana Board of Regents. The program will offer a bachelor’s degree in ranching systems; in the future, it will also offer outreach workshops and professional networking for the ranching community. The ranching systems degree will be housed in the Department of Animal and Range Sciences in the MSU College of Agriculture. The Bachelor of Science degree in ranching systems aims to graduate students with the knowledge and skills to employ prudent ranching practices that create value and improve the state and country’s natural resources. “We’re really excited to offer this degree,” said Patrick Hatfield, head of the Department of Animal and Range Sciences. “We want students (to enroll) who have a strong work ethic, a commitment to the ranching industry and a passion for learning. We hope they will continue a lifetime 30 - March 20, 2019
“When these students graduate, we expect that they will have both the foundational academic training combined with experiential training to one day be leaders in this profession.” - Patrick Hatfield, head of the Department of Animal and Range Sciences of learning with the foundation we give them.” Hatfield said the four-year degree takes a systems-level approach, meaning that rather than focusing on just one discipline, it will integrate course work and experiential learning in animal production, natural resource management and economics and business, as well as applied skills such as communication, lifelong learning and critical thinking. There will also be a structured experiential learning component through internships with ranch partners across Montana and the region.
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Students must apply to the degree program during their sophomore year, and each student admitted to the program will be matched with an internship host ranch for two years beginning the summer after the sophomore year. Each student will have individualized learning objectives based on that particular ranch and then return to the classroom and teach their fellow classmates about the unique aspects of their internship experience. “We want to give students that real-world experience, but we also want to enhance their communication and leadership skills, so they have to come back and take the lead in the classroom,” Hatfield said. “They will be responsible for teaching the other students about the parts of (their internship host) ranch.” Hatfield added that the students’ internship experiences collectively will reflect the diversity of the ranching industry in Montana. The Dan Scott Ranch Management Program is named for the late Dan Scott, eldest son of Padlock Ranch founder Homer Scott. Dan Scott served as CEO and manager of the ranch for 50 years. Founded in 1943 by Homer and Mildred Scott, the Padlock Ranch is a diversified cow-calf, farm and feedlot operation in Montana and Wyoming. It is run today by Homer and Mildred Scott’s descendants. In
addition, the Scott family started First Interstate Bank in 1968 and remains its majority shareholder. Dan Scott’s daughter, Risa, provided MSU with a $2 million gift in 2018 in her father’s honor to support the program. To date, MSU has raised $3.5 million for the program, with a goal of raising $6 million, according to Kevin Peterson, MSU Alumni Foundation director of development for the College of Agriculture. The private support will allow the university to hire a program director and set up the unique internship host ranch program for the students. “This transformative program in ranch management would not be possible without the support of many private donors – most notably, Risa Scott’s $2 million gift to honor her late father, Dan Scott, who was a true leader in the ranching industry,” Peterson said. Hatfield said there is a great need for the degree program. In 2016, the MSU Jake Jabs College of Business and Entrepreneurship conducted a survey about the field of ranch management that focused on Montana Stockgrowers Association members and other agricultural stakeholders involved in the land and livestock management business. Hatfield said the survey of more than 200 individuals found that there was a high demand for talented management expertise for both large investment-type land holdings and existing ranches. He said the survey found that existing family ranches had the highest need. “The survey also showed that the need was not only increasing rapidly, but that it could be effec-
tively addressed at a Bachelor of Science level, so long as it integrates systematic thinking education with experiential learning,” Hatfield said. Similarly, Hatfield pointed to a 2015 study from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture that showed tremendous demand for recent college graduates with a degree in agricultural programs. According to the report, there are an estimated 57,900 highskilled job openings annually in the food, agriculture, renewable natural resources and environment fields in the United States. However, on average there are only 35,400 new U.S. graduates with a bachelor’s degree or higher in agriculture related fields, well short of the jobs available annually. Hatfield said MSU intends the Dan Scott Ranch Management Program to be recognized as the “preeminent ranch management program in the Northern Great Plains and Intermountain West regions. “When these students graduate, we expect that they will have both the foundational academic training combined with experiential training to one day be leaders in this profession,” he said. “We will lay the foundation for these students to be outstanding future ranch managers. We expect most of our graduates will be young men and women, and we realize there is no substitution for real-life experience.” Individuals who would like to learn more are invited to contact Hatfield at hatfield@montana. edu or Peterson at email@example.com.
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NICOLE TAVENNER / VALLEY JOURNAL
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