Grow Montana 2021 Legislative Session Overview

Grow Montana focused on four food and agriculture issues during the 67th legislative session: soil health, country of origin labeling, Double SNAP Dollars, and Farm to School. The coalition worked with our lobbyist Cole Mannix to engage on the the following bills: 

Soil Health Subcommittee Bill (SB180)

The Soil Health Subcommittee Bill, sponsored by Senator Pat Flowers (D-SD32), aimed to appoint a soil health task force to explore how the state can promote and support farming and ranching methods that improve the health of our soils, and the yield and profitability of our agricultural lands. 

The bill was introduced in the Senate Natural Resources Committee and passed executive action (7-5). The bill moved to the Senate floor and unfortunately was not passed (23-27) and indefinitely tabled (31-19). SB180 was the first soil health bill proposed in the Montana legislature and has led to a larger statewide effort to continue supporting producers and soil health in the state. 

Country of Origin Labeling Bill (HB324 & SB210)

The Country of Origin Labeling Bill House bill, sponsored by Frank Smith (D-HD31), and Senate bill, sponsored by Tom Jacobsen (D-SD11), asked retailers to put up signs in front of beef and pork that clarifies the product was born, raised and processed in the United States. 

HB324 was introduced in the House Agriculture Committee and was tabled. SB210 was introduced in the Senate Agriculture Committee, but unfortunately was also tabled before it could be heard on the Senate floor. Both of the Country of Origin of Labeling bills raised the profile on these issues and built up grassroots support for more transparency in labeling and packaging in Montana. 

Double SNAP Dollars Bill (HB235)

The Double SNAP Dollar Bill, sponsored by Tom Welch (R-HD72), sought state funding of $95,000 for the biennium to support the statewide nutrition incentive program, Double SNAP Dollars at farmers markets, community supported agriculture sites, and grocery stores throughout Montana. 

HB235 was introduced in the Health and Human Services committee, where it passed the committee and was submitted for a second reading in the house. HB235 passed the second and third readings in the house with an updated fiscal note and then referred to the Senate Public Health, Welfare, and Safety committee. The bill was tabled in the senate committee, but in a surprise turn of events, supportive Senators worked to bring HB235 back through a move called “blasting the bill out of committee.” To do this, bipartisan votes were recruited to bring the bill back to the Senate floor. HB235 then successfully passed the second and third reading on the senate floor and was sent to the Governor’s Desk to be signed into law or vetoed. Ultimately, Governor Gianforte vetoed the bill. Though this was not the outcome Grow MT was working towards, the bipartisan support and outpouring of advocacy and testimony from citizens showed that Double SNAP Dollars is an important program that makes a difference in peoples’ lives. 

Farm to School Bill (HB642)

The Farm to School, sponsored by Laurie Bishop (D-HD60) would have created a competitive grant program through the Office of Public Assistance that would allow schools to apply for funds that would help pay for starting or expanding current purchasing of Montana grown or processed foods. HB642 sought state appropriations in the amount of $200,000 over the biennium.

The bill was heard in the House Education Committee, where 13 witnesses testified in support of the bill, with several others sending in written testimony, but the bill was ultimately tabled in the committee. Grow Montana is committed to promoting and advocating for farm to school initiatives and will consider how the coalition can provide support in the 2023 legislative session. 


Grow Montana would like to thank everyone who supported the coalition and advocated on behalf of these bills during the 2021 Montana Legislative session. We look forward to the next legislative session and continuing to build healthy food and agriculture systems in the meantime!

HB642 Heard in House Education Committee on 3/24/21

HB642 supports healthy Montana kids, strong communities, and vibrant agriculture by creating a pilot Farm to School Grant program, incentivizing local purchases.

HB642 was heard in the House Education Committee on 3/24/21. Thank you to the 13 witnesses who testified in support of the bill and the many supporters who submitted written testimony. Stay tuned for more updates on this bill as we wait to hear back when the committee will vote on HB642. In the meantime, if you haven’t expressed your support for Farm to School, you can reach out directly to the committee or your legislator on the committee at this link. Write to them TODAY and urge them to pass HB642.

Support Farm to School Grant Act HB642

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

Double SNAP Dollars Bill HB235 Senate Hearing this Friday

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. If you’d like to call your senator in support of HB235, you can find their information here.
  4. 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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MT Conservation Innovation Grants and South Dakota Soil Health Webinar

Here are some updates on soil health happenings in the region:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

SB180 Comes to a Close

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.  
  3. If you or your organization wants to be involved in future soil health conversations, please reach out to Grow Montana at coalition@growmt.org, and any of the conservation districts, watershed groups, or other organizations working to advance soil health work in Montana.

Stay tuned for future updates on soil health from Grow Montana by following us on our social media at Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

State Investment in Double SNAP Dollars: Win-Win-Win for 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!

Update on Double SNAP Dollars Bill

The Double SNAP Dollars Bill passed the House Human Services Committee on with a vote of 14-5. Read the updated bill HERE and the Fact Sheet HERE. Stay tuned for future action alerts from us after the transmittal break.