Grow Montana’s 2011 Legislative Priorities

Another Legal Win for Local Food Entrepreneurs!

The 2011 Legislature continues to support technical assistance for Montanans who want to develop our homegrown food and energy infrastructure.

Secure funding for four established Food & Agriculture Development Centers.

In Montana’s 2009 Legislative Session, Grow Montana led the effort to establish the Food and Agriculture Development Center network, which is administered by the Montana Department of Agriculture. These centers help entrepreneurs capitalize off of new market trends in value-added local food production and the development of farm-based renewable energy projects. In just its first year the program served 100 entrepreneurs, creating and retaining almost 133 in-state jobs, and introducing almost 40 new local products for Montana consumers.

A core coalition member, the Montana Farmers Union, led our efforts in working with other groups to help secure two more years of funding for the centers. The first bill to support the centers (HB 207 sponsored by Rep. MacDonald) died in committee, but HB 611 (sponsored by Rep. Cook) was amended in the last days of the session to include reduced, but still manageable funding levels for the centers. This ensures that they will continue to fill a critical role in establishing the entrepreneurial support system necessary to actually build the food production, processing, and distribution infrastructure needed to localize Montana’s food system.

A Resolution encouraging Farm to School programs SJ 19

Farm to School programs connect schools (K-12) and local farms and ranches in order to serve fresh and healthy Montana grown foods in school cafeterias and provide experiential agriculture, health, and nutrition education opportunities to students.

SJ 19 (sponsored by Sen. Caferro) encouraged Montanans to recognize the first week of October as “Montana Farm to School Week”, and to recognized Farm to School as programs that both purchase agricultural products from local farmers and educate students about healthy food choices and why local agriculture is valuable. Unfortunately, due to a missed deadline in the legislative process this resolution died, but Grow Montana is prepared to pass this resolution in 2013 in order to bring further promotion, coordination, and support to Farm to School across the state.

In 2011, Grow Montana also strongly supported HJ 8, an interim study on reducing child hunger in Montana which was developed and led by the Montana Food Security Council.

Grow Montana supports the numerous ways to address child hunger in Montana identified in this resolution and are especially supportive of the resolution’s exploration of “ways to encourage the use of Montana farm products in schools.”