HELENA – Young people in Montana’s agriculture industry got a firsthand look at state government Thursday.
The Montana Farm Bureau Federation brought about 25 people to Helena for their Young Farmer and Rancher Calling on the Capitol event.
They included students from Montana State University, the University of Montana Western and Miles Community College, as well as other farmers and ranchers under the age of 35.
“We come up here to introduce people to the legislative process here in Helena,” said Gil Gasper, a farmer and rancher from Circle who chairs MFBF’s Young Farmer and Rancher Committee.
On Thursday, the visitors met with leaders of the Montana Department of Agriculture and Department of Livestock, as well as the Trust Lands Management Division of the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation. They sat in on legislative committee hearings and watched the Senate floor session.
“I’m hands-on, I’m a farmer and rancher, I grew up on a farm,” said Kaitlin Farver, who is studying agricultural production and accounting at Miles Community College. “You don’t realize what goes on behind the scenes: all the bills, the floor hearings, the hours that committee members spend.”
Farver, who comes from a farm and ranch family near Scobey, said the decisions made in Helena can have direct impacts on agriculture — such as the creation of the Growth Through Agriculture grant that her family has benefited from. She said it’s valuable for producers to get this perspective on how the legislative process works.
Gasper has attended five legislative sessions with the Farm Bureau. He said it’s an important opportunity not only for the farmers and ranchers who attend but also for the people they meet with.
“What’s important is that agriculture is a huge industry in Montana — we’re the number-one industry — and making sure that our voices are heard because we are a smaller and smaller percentage of the population,” he said.
During their lunch Thursday, the farmers and ranchers heard a presentation at the Montana Historical Society about agriculture during the state’s homestead era.
On Friday, they met with the chairs of the House and Senate committees dealing with agriculture, natural resources, and taxes.
Next month, the Farm Bureau will return to the Capitol to celebrate the organization’s 100th birthday.
-Jonathon Ambarian reporting for MTN News