Grow Montana’s Farm Bill Advocacy Toolkit
For nearly 20 years, Grow Montana has focused on advocating for food policy issues at the state legislature. For the first time in our history, the coalition is stepping into the National forum by providing advocacy and input on the US Farm Bill as it is set to be reauthorized for the next five years. We have developed this toolkit to help our network learn more about the Farm Bill and opportunities for action.
Read on to learn more about what the Farm Bill is, why it is important and how you can get involved. Also included is our Grow Montana Farm Bill Policy Platform that outlines specific changes to the 2023 Farm Bill the coalition thinks will be an improvement for Montana’s local food system.
We have also developed a sign-on letter to be delivered to Montana’s Congressional Delegates in early September. You can read the letter HERE and you can add your signature. Montana citizens and organizations are all welcome to sign-on.
Many of the programs included in the Farm Bill impact the public, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), grant funding for farmers markets, and programs for soil health. The Farm Bill also provides subsidies to agricultural corporations and commodity farmers. With the passing of each new Farm Bill is an opportunity to expand important programs, and change policies so they better serve local food systems.
Congress passed the first Farm Bill in 1933 in response to the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl to help reverse widespread hunger, low crop prices, lack of infrastructure in rural communities, and dangerous destruction of the soil. It included programs for environmental restoration, hunger relief, research, economic programs, and government purchased commodity crops. Some of these programs still exist today.
There are 5 stages in developing the new Farm Bill: Input, Writing, Passing, Funding, and Implementing. We are approaching the passing stage of the 2023 Farm Bill, and many groups have developed recommendations to include in the new legislation. Letting our state representatives know what is important to Montanans, even at this stage, is a vital step to forming the new Farm Bill for the next five years.
The Farm Bill is a large packet of legislation, known as an Omnibus, because it contains many different provisions. It is passed about every five years, and it is the primary federal legislation impacting agriculture and food policy in the United States. It is organized into 12 sections called “Titles” which include:
- Title I – Commodity Programs
- Title II – Conservation
- Title III – Trade
- Title IV – Nutrition Programs
- Title V – Credit
- Title VI – Rural Development
- Title VII – Research and Related Matters
- Title VIII – Forestry
- Title IX – Energy
- Title X – Horticulture
- Title XI – Crop Insurance
- Title XII – Miscellaneous
While the Farm Bill covers a swath of key agricultural policy topics, there are some policy areas that are not included, such as:
- Farm and food worker rights and protections
- Public land grazing rights
- Irrigation water rights
- Food and Drug Administration (FDA) food safety
- Renewable fuels standards
- Tax issues
- School meals
- The Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program
- Some pesticide Laws
- Clean Water Act
- Clean Air Act
While these issues are directly related to agriculture, they are not included in the farm bill because they fall outside of the jurisdiction of the Agriculture Committees and are instead considered under the jurisdiction of other committees. For example, Farmworker Rights and Protections fall under the jurisdiction of the House Education and Labor Committee and Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.*
*This information comes from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.
The Farm Bill is an opportunity to invest in communities and produce food in a way that is good for the environment and for people. The Farm Bill impacts every person, from families, college students, and seniors who utilize nutrition assistance programs, to farmers markets that are seeking grants to expand their operations, to the producers and farmers working to maintain healthy soil so we have nutrient dense food available in local communities.
Review Grow Montana’s Farm Bill Platform for changes in important titles that impact Montanans. Scroll down to review the platform on this webpage.
Share your story. Writing a letter to the editor or to your congressional representative is a great way to advocate for food policy issues.
Attend a Farm Bill Advocacy Session hosted by Grow Montana. Upcoming dates are August 28, September 11, and September 19.
Connect with a Grow Montana Coalition Member on specific issues. In the farm bill platform below, coalition members organizations who work directly on these issues in Montana are identified. Click on their names to be directed to their websites and contact forms.
- From the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition is a video in 4- minutes that describes how the farm bill “connects the food on our plates, the farmers and ranchers who produce that food, and the natural resources – our soil, air and water – that make growing food possible.” “The Farm Bill: From Seed to Plate” – https://youtu.be/SHGad3uzV0c
- To get a better picture of what the Farm Bill entails and how it becomes policy, consider this 5-minute video from the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service made in 2019. “What is the Farm Bill?” – https://youtu.be/D5iZozUzws
National Farm Bill Platforms
- Farmers Market Coalition – 2023 Farm Bill Priorities
- National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition – 2023 Farm Bill Priorities
- Regenerate America – 2023 Farm Bill Priorities
Montana Based Platforms
What is a Letter to the editor (LTE)?*
The letter-to-the-editor page is among the most closely read parts of newspaper. Policymakers look at
letters to gauge public opinion. Letters to the editor are exactly that: letters written to the editor of a
newspaper with the objective of being published on the editorial page. You can use your letter to the
editor to clarify a point, highlight the importance of an issue, or simply react to a recent situation or
occurrence that received media coverage.
• RESPOND TO TOPICS OF INTEREST. Find ways to connect your issue to other stories in the news.
• KEEP YOUR LETTER SHORT. Letters to the editor should be brief and to the point. Aim for 250
words or less. Be sure to check with your local paper to find out about their guidelines for
submitting letters because many of them have restrictions on length.
• TELL YOUR STORY. Your letter should include a personal story or experience that illustrates why
readers should care about the issue. Be sure your letter incorporates your message in an easily
• INDIVIDUAL OR GROUP. An LTE can be signed by an individual or a group.
LTE Resources and Examples
Writing an Opinion Editorial (OP-ED)*
One of the best ways to gain visibility for your organization and the issues you care about is to submit a
timely, persuasive op-ed to a local newspaper. Because Senators and Representatives pay close
attention to what is happening in their districts, local media coverage can be quite effective in getting
your message to them as well. Below is a list of tips to help you develop an effective op-ed piece
WRITING YOUR OP-ED
• Argue for your organization’s work. Tell the community and stakeholders why your
organization’s work is important. An op-ed is a perfect way to argue for the issues your work
• Make only one point well. Remember to focus on only one issue or idea — in the first
paragraph. Start with your strongest argument.
• Base it on facts. Express your opinion, then base it on factual, researched, or first-hand
• Candid and personable. Editors want to publish op-eds that are interesting to readers, so be
candid and personable. Use conversational language and avoid jargon.
• Keep it brief. An op-ed should never be longer than 750 words. Each newspaper has their own
word limits, so check first.
• Use short, easy to follow sentences.
MAKE IT RELEVANT
• Timing is everything, so jump at the right opportunities. Link your op-ed to an event or story
that is dominating the news.
• Tell a local story. Make sure your op-ed relates broad issues to what’s happening in your
community. Op-eds are meant to stimulate public discussion and drive public debate.
• Use your op-ed to build your relationships with your Senators or Representatives. If they have
been supportive of the issue, thank them for their leadership in the op-ed and forward a copy
of the published op-ed to their office.
• Contact your newspaper to find out the word limit, preferred method of submission, and name
and phone number of an editorial contact to ensure your submission arrived. Ask the opinion
page editor for suggestions on what their paper seeks in an op-ed contribution.
• Submit your op-ed with a brief bio, along with a quick overview of your organization, and your
phone number, email address, and mailing address. Include a note to briefly introduce your
credentials and explain why the issue is important to their readers. You may also be asked for a
head shot to run with the article.
• When using email, avoid sending attachments that may set off spam filters. Instead send your
op-ed in the body of the email.
• Thank the outlet if your piece is run. If the piece is not run, try to obtain comments that you can
use when producing future op-ed pieces. You can also submit it to other newspapers.
Additional Resources & Templates
Op-Ed/Press Release Montana Food Bank Network: 130 Montana organizations and leaders urge
Congressional Leaders to Protect Food Assistance in the Farm Bill (2018 Farm Bill)
US House Representatives for Montana:
Rep. Ryan Zinke (House District 1) https://zinke.house.gov/
Washington, DC 20515
Missoula, MT 59808
Kalispell, MT 59601
Rep. Matt Rosendale (House District 2) https://rosendale.house.gov/
Helena, MT 59601
Great Falls, MT 59404
US Senators for Montana
Senator Steve Daines https://www.daines.senate.gov/
13 S. Willson Ave. Ste. 8 Bozeman, MT 59715
p: (406) 587-3446
104 4th Street North, Ste. 302 Great Falls, MT 59401
p: (406) 453-0148
30 West 14th Street, Ste. 206 Helena, MT 59601
p: (406) 443-3189
222 N. 32nd Street, Ste. 100
Billings, MT 59101
p: (406) 245-6822
218 East Front Street, Ste. 103 Missoula, MT 59802
p: (406) 549-8198
New Office Address Coming Soon!
PO Box 2310
Kalispell, MT 59903
p: (406) 257-3765
609 S. Central Ave. Ste. #4
Sidney, MT, 59270
p: (406) 482-9010
320 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
p: (202) 224-2651
Senator Jon Tester https://www.tester.senate.gov/
2900 4th Avenue N, Suite 201
Billings, MT 59101
Phone: (406) 252-0550
Fax: (406) 252-7768
Avant Courier Building
1 E Main Street, Suite 202
Bozeman, MT 59715
Phone: (406) 586-4450
Fax: (406) 586-7647
Silver Bow Center
125 W Granite, Suite 200
Butte, MT 59701
Phone: (406) 723-3277
Fax: (406) 782-4717
119 1st Avenue N, Suite 102
Great Falls, MT 59401
Phone: (406) 452-9585
Fax: (406) 452-9586
208 North Montana Avenue, Suite 104
Helena, MT 59601
Phone: (406) 449-5401
Fax: (406) 449-5462
8 Third Street E
Kalispell, MT 59901
Phone: (406) 257-3360
Fax: (406) 257-3974
130 W Front St.
Missoula, MT 59802
Phone: (406) 728-3003
Fax: (406) 728-2193
311 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Phone: (202) 224-2644
Fax: (202) 224-8594
Grow Montana’s Farm Bill Platform
The Farm Bill dictates the funding for important programs like SNAP, TEFAP, Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program, DSD. People from all walks of life rely on these programs, including working parents, college students, and seniors.
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- Increase SNAP’s purchasing power by basing the program on the Low-Cost Food Plan to bring benefit amounts in line with the cost of purchasing an adequate, nutrient-dense diet
- Improve SNAP access for college students, many of whom are unable to participate in SNAP despite meeting income qualifications, due to eligibility and enrollment barriers.
- Strengthen efforts to support work by removing the 3-month time limit on SNAP benefits.
- Ensure sovereignty for Native Communities.
- End the Ban on SNAP for individuals with prior drug felony convictions.
- Protect and enhance food choice in SNAP.
- The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP)
- Reauthorize and increase to $500 million per year mandatory funding for TEFAP food purchases, adjusted for inflation.
- Reauthorize and increase to $200 million per year discretionary funding for TEFAP storage and distribution.
- Reauthorize $15 million per year in discretionary funding for TEFAP infrastructure grants.
- Improve access to local food products through TEFAP, better supporting local food systems and small producers.
- Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP)
- Reauthorize and increase from $20.6 per year to $50 million per year mandatory funding for SFMNP food purchases.
- Adequately fund and allow administrative and marketing costs to be included in the annual state plan up to 10% of the total award.
- GusNIP Grant Program
- Ensure that the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program is well funded and program design does not undermine the effectiveness of farmers markets and other farm direct sales.
- Increase funding to $350 million and include a fourth tier/scale of projects for Statewide expansion/cooperative agreements and increase funding cap for Produce Prescription projects to $1 million for program expansion.
- Decrease or eliminate the requirement to secure a 1:1 match from private sources for federal dollars. Allow brick and mortar retailers to contribute to in-kind match.
Everything we eat originates from the soil in some form, whether it is salad greens and fresh vegetables, to pasture raised beef. Simply put, soil is where our food comes from, and ensuring that agricultural lands are sustained through good soil health practices is an important part of the Farm Bill.
- Increase research on soil health & regenerative agriculture.
- Develop and support peer learning networks of farmers.
- Direct USDA to develop soil health measurement systems to advance research on agriculture climate impacts.
- Support the Federally Recognized Tribes Extension Program (FRTEP)
In Montana and around the country, farmers markets are essential operations that provide a way for new businesses to get their start while also providing local food to their community. Many farmers markets are run on shoe-string budgets with volunteer labor, and for some markets, accessing federal grants is impossible because of the complex application process and the burdensome match requirements. There are several changes that could be made in the upcoming Farm Bill that would support farmers’ markets in expanding their operations and ensuring they are considered essential.
- Improve FMPP Grants to make them simpler.
- A simplified application process for grants less than $100,000 to be used for a pre-established set of activities.
- Reduce or eliminate match requirements.
- Build a mechanism to provide assistance and training to grantees and potential grantees, review and report on FMPP grant impacts, and conduct analysis in the field of farmers markets.
- Define farmers markets as essential infrastructure in the Critical Infrastructure Workers Guidance.
The Farm Bill needs to shift its focus to not only supporting large commodity farming, but to the “missing middle” – mid-scale farmers and processors that support regional food and local food security so there is not so much dependence on foreign inputs.
- Support the Local Farms and Food Act of 2023
- Reduce VAPG matching requirement from 50 to 25 percent for applications from beginning and socially disadvantaged producers with an Adjusted Gross Income of $250,000 or less.
- Increase funding for the Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP) from $50 million per year to $75 million per year.
- Support the Strengthening Local Processing Act of 2023
- Advance local markets and food systems by establishing grant programs to support small and very small meat and poultry processing establishments, expanding career training, and other mechanisms.
- Make permanent the Meat & Poultry Intermediary Lending Program, Meat & Poultry Expansion Program, and Food Supply Chain Loan and Guaranteed Loan programs authorized by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).
The 2023 Farm bill needs to prioritize competitive and fair markets for producers. Fairness for farmers, ranchers, and growers is essential for food security, food supply chain resiliency, and level the playing field so farmers and ranchers have competitive markets to sell their products. Corporate consolidation and control in agriculture causes harm to producers and consumers and poses a significant risk for having resilient and secure food supply chains for American families.
- Create a competition title in the Farm Bill.
- Ensure Strong Enforcement of Packers & Stockyards Act and protect ongoing P&S Act. rulemakings, including addressing meatpacker retaliation against growers.
- Reinstate Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (COOL).
- Ensure checkoff program are producer controlled and regularly reviewed.
- Address inadequate cattle market price discovery and transparency.
- Establish an “Office of the Special Investigator for Competition Matters” at USDA to ensure strong enforcement of the Packers & Stockyard Act.
- Improve the Livestock Mandatory Reporting Act to ensure consistent and complete data availability.
Grow Montana Members to connect with on these issues: MFU