The Farm to School Bill HB642 was introduced in the House and referred to the Education Committee, where it had its first reading this week. You can find the bill information here. Stay tuned for future action alerts and ways to support Farm to School in Montana by following us on social media. In the meantime if you’d like to learn more about farm to school, check out the Montana Farm to School 2019-2020 Annual report here and Grow Montana’s fact sheet below.Support-HB-642-_-Farm-to-School-Grant-Act
The Double SNAP Dollar bill HB235 will be heard TOMORROW at 3pm in the Senate Public Health, Welfare, and Safety Committee! The bill received an incredible amount of support in the House and we need your help again to get it through the Senate.
Here are the many ways you can make your voice heard in support of HB235:
- Check out Montana Food Bank Network’s action alert here, where you can write an email directly to everyone on the Senate Public Health, Welfare, and Safety Committee.
- If your senator sits on the committee and you’d like to write them directly, you can send them a message urging them to support HB235 here.
- If you’d like to call your senator in support of HB235, you can find their information here.
- Lastly, you can voice your support of Double SNAP Dollars HB235 through your social media by posting and sharing with your community. Follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to get up to date information on all things Grow Montana and our legislative priorities.
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Here are some updates on soil health happenings in the region:
- The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is accepting applications for Montana’s Conservation Innovation Grants until April 23, 2021. These grants fund projects that are focused on addressing at least one of the agency’s main resource concerns: soil health, water quality and quantity, and range health. Check out how to apply here.
- Following the impactful Soil Health Innovations Conference that happened earlier this month, check out the Hybrid Soil Health & Drought Management Seminar taking place on Tuesday, March 23, 2021. This event is hosted by the Williams County Soil Conservation District in South Dakota and is free to register. You can find the agenda and how to sign up here.
While SB 180 successfully made it out of the Senate Natural Resources Committee last month (7-5), the bill was three votes shy of passing in the full Senate on March 1, 2021. You can see the full vote tally here.
This bill, introduced by Senator Pat Flowers, proposed to appoint a soil health task force to explore how Montana can promote and support farming and ranching methods that improve the health of Montana soils, and the yield and profitability of the state’s agricultural lands. SB180 was the first time a soil health bill was introduced in the Montana legislature and there was strong support for the bill despite it not passing. As we close the chapter on this bill, please consider taking one or more of the following actions:
- If you know Senator Pat Flowers, live in his district, or just care about soil health, please thank him for his leadership on this bill. He was a great champion for soil health this session and continues to work tirelessly under challenging circumstances.
- Thank your senator if they voted for SB 180. See the list here to find out how all senators voted. And, go here, to find their contact information. These lawmakers will appreciate hearing that their vote in support of soil health mattered to their constituents.
- If you or your organization wants to be involved in future soil health conversations, please reach out to Grow Montana at email@example.com, and any of the conservation districts, watershed groups, or other organizations working to advance soil health work in Montana.
House Bill 235 goes to the House floor TODAY, 3/10, at 1:00pm. All House members will be voting on this bill. Take Action NOW!
Food insecurity in Montana is projected to increase by nearly 30% as a result of COVID, with more than 141,000 Montanans at risk of hunger. SNAP helps many families make ends meet, but affording healthy food can still be difficult. Incentives such as Double SNAP Dollars help to stretch limited food budgets and make healthy, local food more affordable.
HB235 provides $95,000 in state funding (over two years) to expand access to Montana’s Double SNAP Dollars program.
- What is Double SNAP Dollars (DSD)?
- DSD is a nutrition incentive program that provides a dollar-for-dollar match (up to $20/day) for SNAP customers to spend on local produce
- DSD is currently offered at 23 Montana farmers markets, 2 Community Supported Agriculture (farm share) programs, and 1 retail grocery store across 13 Montana counties
- SNAP customers have spent $500,000 on local foods through DSD since 2015, directly supporting Montana farmers
Why do we need state investment?
- State investment would provide stability for current DSD sites and allow the program to grow to new communities and retailers
- Increased access to DSD means improved food security and health outcomes for families in need, and increased revenue for Montana farmers. Find our DSD Fact Sheet Here.
HB235 is a win for our families, farmers and economy. Email your Representative today to ask them to support this bill — click here!
Looking to learn more about soil health and get connected to a community on the cutting edge of soil health across the country? Check out NCAT’s Soil Health Innovation Conference, happening March 8-9, 2021. Register at this link: https://soilinnovations.ncat.org/register/
Grow Montana has a history of helping develop state legislation that is collaborative and based on common sense.
We urge our representatives to oppose SB 199, an unnecessary and potentially damaging bill that interjects language in existing law that has not been vetted by agencies or the public. The bill disregards existing state law and administrative rules, as well as federal regulations. The Grow Montana Food Policy Coalition urges our legislators to work with our public agencies and citizens to maintain the existing laws until they can be reviewed through a thorough, collaborative process. Grow Montana supports legislation that encourages and supports value-added pursuits such as cottage food. It cannot support legislation that imperils already existing and thriving cottage food businesses.
History of Collaborative Law Making & Enforcement
- In 2013 Grow Montana worked with Kathleen Williams in the passage of HB 630, a study bill to support locally sourced and community-based food production, commonly referred to as “cottage food,” while ensuring food safety. The bill initiated a two-year effort with agencies and citizens to develop consensus recommendations.
- The Montana Legislature recognized the value of this work and passed Montana’s current cottage food law, The Montana Food Policy Modernization Act, in 2015 with unanimous bipartisan support. The Montana Food Policy Modernization Act has spurred a robust cottage food program. Today, over 300 Montanans operate food businesses, producing more than 6,000 food products from their home kitchens that are sold directly to consumers without a food license.
- Stakeholders continue to work together to simplify the application process for cottage food operators and expand the list of allowable, food products. AERO (Alternative Energy Resources Organization) is working with the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services right now to assemble a working group of cottage food operators, farmers, and public servants to propose changes to the cottage food rule. You can learn more about the project here (https://aeromt.org/what-we-do/cottagefood/)
The 2021 legislative session is ignoring these accomplishments by advancing a bill that undermines the Montana Food Modernization Act. The existing Montana cottage food law represents agreement between agencies, legislators, producers, and consumers. It succeeds in supporting value-added cottage food businesses, while also protecting Montana consumers from unsafe food.
This bill has passed the senate and has been moved to the House. Please contact your legislators and encourage a NO vote on SB199.
You can find your elected officials and their contact information by visiting https://leg.mt.gov/legislator-lookup/.
Use the following link to contact the legislators or email them directly: https://leg.mt.gov/web-messaging/ .
Please see the talking points MEHA has generated about this bill HERE.
Since 2005, Grow Montana has advocated for changes in state policies that would strengthen Montana’s food and agriculture economies. The coalition has since led projects on food systems research, producing education materials, and stewarded policy change to support Montana’s food producers.