Farm to School is most successful when diverse community members and stakeholders take part in implementation. If you are interested in “Digging Deeper” and learning more about Farm to School, consider attending the Montana Farm to School Summit in August. Learn and share how Montana schools and programs are cultivating success through the core elements of farm to school–serving local foods, school gardens, and nutrition, agriculture, and food education. Workshops, field trips, and networking opportunities will provide inspiration and skill building. The conference will feature national and Montana farm to school champions who will share their stories and experiences. The summit will feature Montana Harvest of the Month successes and resources. The target audience includes all stakeholders involved and interested in farm to school. This includes school and summer food service personnel, teachers, school administration, childcare providers, parents, students, food producers and vendors, farm to school practitioners including FoodCorps service members, groups that support farm to school efforts, and more. More information is available on this 2021 Summit Flyer: https://www.montana.edu/mtfarmtoschool/documents/Summit21_flyer.pdf
On 2/17/21 the Senate Natural Resources Committee is holding a hearing on the Soil Health Subcommittee Bill S180. The Grow Montana Food Policy Coalition is supportive of the bill, which was drafted with the input of many soil health experts, growers, and advocates, and now, we need your help passing the bill out of the Natural Resources Committee!
Healthy soil grows healthy food, protects the environment, keeps more money in farmers and ranchers’ pockets, and holds more water, which is critical weathering future droughts. We can support Montana’s farmers and ranchers working to build healthy soil, and the Soil Health Subcommittee Bill creates a pathway to help make that happen.
The Montana Soil Health Subcommittee Bill will create a soil health task force comprised of experts from research institutions, conservation districts, Tribes, scientists, farmers and ranchers, advocacy organizations, and more, to explore how Montana can promote and support farming and ranching methods that improve soil health. Key components of the bill include:
- Diverse Task Force: The bill will create a 15-member task force to make recommendations on the role of a state soil health program, its objectives, and how it would function.
- Public Involvement: The task force will invite broad public input from stakeholders across the state to solicit feedback on local needs and how best to address them.
- Research and Assessment: The task force will explore the state of Montana’s soils, identify which soil building practices are most appropriate for widespread adoption, and report what kinds of investments (data and research, technical assistance, etc.) Montana’s farmers and ranchers need to build more healthy soil.
- Reporting: The task force will share findings and recommendations for a state soil health program by September 2022.
As Montana’s 67th legislative session continues, we need to take action to ensure our representatives recognize the importance of soil heath and invest at the state-level.
We need your help today! Please visit https://leg.mt.gov/legislator-lookup/ to find your elected officials and contact them to ask for their support the Soil Health Subcommittee Bill. Below is a template you can use. We encourage you to personalize it before sending it to your Senate member.
Dear Senator [INSERT YOUR ELECTED OFFICIAL HERE]:
I live in [INSERT YOUR TOWN HERE] and am writing to ask you to support the passage of the Soil Health Subcommittee Bill (SB 180). This bipartisan legislation introduced by Senator Pat Flowers and Butch Gillespie is being considered by the Natural Resources Committee on 2/17/21.
Healthy soils allow farmers and ranchers to keep more money in their pockets, build resilient farms and food systems, and protect water quantity and quality.[MA1] Soil is the foundation for agriculture, and it plays a critical role in protecting the air we breathe, water we drink, and food we eat. Keeping soil healthy is especially important to Montana, where agriculture is the leading industry. While federal programs support the adoption of soil-building practices, state leadership can address existing gaps and provide for the unique needs of and challenges faced by Montana’s producers to scale up the use of soil-building practices. The task force established through this bill will identify those gaps and provide recommendations for how to close them so that Montana’s farmers and ranchers get the resources they need, the way they need them.
The Soil Health Subcommittee Bill builds upon important work that has already been done in the state by:
- Establishing a diverse task force made up of 15-members to make recommendations on the role of a state soil health program.
- Involving broad public input from stakeholders for feedback on local needs and the best ways to address them.
- Assessing soil health conditions and researching soil health programming and resources in Montana to identify the most effective ways to invest in our state’s soil health.
- Reporting findings and recommendations for protecting and building soil health in Montana.
Soil is one of our greatest natural resources. The comprehensive approach to building a state-wide soil health program proposed in the Soil Health Subcommittee Bill will address necessary economic, environmental and agricultural issues and lead to a stronger and more resilient Montana.
Please support the Soil Health Subcommittee Bill (SB 180) and ensure it passes through the Senate Natural Resources Committee. I appreciate your time and consideration.
Today at 3 pm the Senate Natural Resources Committee will hear SB180. Tune in at this link to watch the hearing and listen to the many reasons why farmers, ranchers, agriculture & conservation organizations, and government agencies across the country support strengthening soil health. It’s not too late to reach out to your representatives and the committee members to let them know why you care about soil health and encourage them to support SB180. You can contact them through this form here.
Double SNAP Dollars is a Win-Win for Families, Farmers and the Economy:
- Farms: Nearly 50% of farms in Montana are small farms less than 180 acres. Double SNAP Dollars helps these farms reach more customers. Double SNAP Dollars operates at 26 sites across 13 Montana counties, directly benefiting Montana farmers.
- The Economy: SNAP is an effective economic stimulus, with each dollar generating between $1.50 and $1.80 in economic activity (5). Since 2015, $500,000 has been spent on local foods through Double SNAP Dollars, representing an economic impact of up to $895,000. With the requested investment in state funds, that economic impact could increase by an additional $358,000.
- Families: 6,000 low-income Montanans have benefited from the program since 2015. In a survey of 140 Double SNAP participants, 96% reported consuming a greater amount of fresh fruits and vegetables as a result of the program. Improved access to nutrition means: 1) children are better learners, 2) seniors and people with disabilities have better health outcomes, and 3) reduced healthcare spending in Montana.
The soil health bill (SB180) has been scheduled for a hearing with Senate Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday, 2/17 at 3 pm in room 303. This bill, sponsored by Senator Pat Flowers, will establish a subcommittee within the Environmental Quality Council Interim Committee to study how MT can promote and support soil health! Show your support and reach out to your legislators using this link or provide public testimony through this link. If you’d like to submit written or virtual testimony, you must submit your information and testimony by Tuesday at noon prior to the scheduled hearing. Check out the legislature’s FAQ on how to provide testimony here.
Don’t forget to check out the bill’s fact sheet and FAQ on our 2021 Policy Priorities page and stay up to date on Grow Montana’s policy priorities by signing up for legislative updates and alerts at https://growmt.org/action-alerts/.
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.