Montana has Key Federal Legislators!

Did you know that this year, Montana has TWO legislators on the federal appropriations committee?  This means that as the ideas from the Farm Bill are put to the test, we have two Montanans who could help bring them to fruition – or not!

Right now is a key time for appropriations.  Can you make a call today to Sen. Tester and Sen. Daines?

10488226_1446162889000853_1359729666571796987_nHere are some key issues on the table:

  • Congress is at risk of cutting thousands of farmers and ranchers out of programs like the Conservation Stewardship Program and Environmental Quality Incentives Program, programs that support farmers for making smart conservation practices work on their farms! The 2014 Farm Bill already cut $6 billion from the Conservation Title and even though demand for these programs is regularly 2 to 3 times higher than availability, Congress is considering making additional cuts.  Ask our Senators: As you write your 2016 funding request letter, hold the line on mandatory farm bill funding for conservation programs with NO CUTS.
  • You may have heard that the FDA is soon going to be rolling out major new food safety regulations for farmers.  Providing training and support to ensure farmers understand the new rules is absolutely critical to ensuring a safe food supply for us all.  Ask our Senators: As you write your 2016 funding request letter, include $5 million for the Food Safety Outreach Program.
  • For over 25 years, the USDA’s Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program has invested in farmer-led research and projects that help spread innovation and sustainability. Despite its successes, SARE is at risk of not receiving adequate funding this year!  Ask our Senators: As you write your 2016 funding request letter, ask for $30 million for SARE.

For more info on these and other key appropriations issues, visit http://www.sustainableagriculture.net.  Many thanks to the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition for their leadership on these policy issues!

Support Montana’s Cottage Food Bill!

The Community Food & Agriculture Coalition serves on the steering committee for the Grow Montana Food Policy Coalition.   The coalition has prioritized the need for a cottage food law to truly expand economic opportunities for home-based producers.

The result of Grow Montana’s efforts is House Bill 478, which was introduced this week at the Montana Legislature.  It creates standards for cottage food in Montana, in addition to cleaning up sections of current code that have led to confusion and uneven enforcement.  The bill ensures safety with clear regulation, while also establishing the basis for cottage food in Montana.

WE NEED YOUR HELP!  Please contact your representative and urge him/her to support this bill.

Feb. 18 Update: This bill is about to be voted on by the House Ag Committee so if you can contact one or several of the committee members, that would be great.  Our wonderful local rep in Missoula, Willis Curdy, is cosponsoring the bill, and it’s sponsored by Kathleen Williams of Bozeman so thank them for their support too!

House Agriculture Committee Members Assignment
Alan Redfield  (R) HD 59 Chair
Christy Clark  (R) HD 17 Vice Chair
Margaret (Margie) MacDonald  (D) HD 51 Vice Chair
Seth Berglee  (R) HD 58 Member
Willis Curdy  (D) HD 98 Member
Bill Harris  (R) HD 29 Member
Greg Hertz  (R) HD 12 Member
Jessica Karjala  (D) HD 48 Member
Mike Lang  (R) HD 33 Member
Theresa Manzella  (R) HD 85 Member
Wendy McKamey  (R) HD 23 Member
Matthew Monforton  (R) HD 69 Member
Dale Mortensen  (R) HD 44 Member
Andrea Olsen  (D) HD 100 Member
Albert Olszewski  (R) HD 11 Member
Carolyn Pease-Lopez  (D) HD 42 Member
Zac Perry  (D) HD 3 Member
Gordon Pierson  (D) HD 78 Member
Daniel R Salomon  (R) HD 93 Member
Scott Staffanson  (R) HD 35 Member
Susan Webber  (D) HD 16 Member
Kathleen Williams  (D) HD 61 Member

Reasons to Support HB 478

  • The products considered cottage food under this bill are low-risk and non-potentially hazardous.  They include such things as baked goods, jams and jellies, dried fruit and dry mixes, granolas, and the like.  They require minimum regulation, which is accomplished by HB 478.
  • HB 478 allows cottage food products to be made in relatively small quantities in a home kitchen and be sold directly by the cottage food operator to consumers within Montana.
  • Our state’s entrepreneurs benefit by being able to test their business idea prior to making large investments, and consumers benefit by having increased access to a variety of locally-produced food.
  • This bill will spur growth in Montana’s increasingly important food manufacturing sector, which currently ranks third in manufacturing employment in Montana.
  • HB 478 cleans up current code and ensures safety with clear regulation.

Please contact the House Agriculture Committee today and urge them to pass HB 478.

Draft-powered Farming, (Ag)vocacy, and More

Ed Hamer didn’t start farming for the fame, but when he started delivering food to his neighbors via horse and wagon, the calls started coming in.  Hamer, who will be speaking in Missoula on Wednesday, February 18, has since been featured in the Guardian, Ecologist, and more, and calls his Welsh-Dartmoor pony, Samson, his secret weapon.

ed-sammy

Samson has helped Hamer sell more vegetables, but the work doesn’t stop there.  Samson helps to plow the fields and has helped Hamer see a different opportunity for growing food in the United Kingdom. Hamer is an active leader in the British young farmer movement and co-founded the Landworkers’ Alliance as a union to represent small-scale ecological producers across the UK.

“Ed has such a unique perspective and we’re thrilled to help share his news about what’s happening in the UK with farmers and supporters here in Missoula,” says Annie Heuscher, program director for the Community Food & Agriculture Coalition, organizers of Hamer’s visit.  “His work in England has so many implications for the changes happening in Montana.”

The Landworkers’ Alliance has grown to represent nearly 1,000 farmers and has been adopted as a formal member of La Via Campesina, an international movement defending small-scale agriculture and peasants’ rights.  Hamer is currently travelling across the United States visiting like-minded farmers to share ideas and aspirations for a better food system.

Hamer is coming to Missoula as part of a larger project to train beginning farmers across Montana.  The project, which includes a wide array of production and business trainings along with financing and land access tools, was recently funded by a major grant from the USDA National Institute for Food & Agriculture.  CFAC was one of fewer than 40 organizations across the country to receive the funding and it is the first time this grant has been given for work in Montana.

Hamer will be speaking at Burns Street Bistro on Wednesday, February 18th from 5:30pm – 8pm.  Snacks and beer provided.  For more information, visit http://missoulacfac.org/farm-school.html.

USDA Invests $18 Million to Train Beginning Farmers and Ranchers

CFAC awarded major federal grant – first of its kind in Montana and one of fewer than 30 across the country awarded in full!

tumblr_mwseyuNgDF1rwlt7do7_1280New Orleans, LA – Feb. 2, 2015 – Today, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden (USDA) announced more than $18 million in grants to educate, mentor, and enhance the sustainability of the next generation of farmers. The grants are available through the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) administered by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), which was authorized by the Agricultural Act of 2014 (Farm Bill).

“As new farmers and ranchers get started, they are really looking to their community for support. The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program empowers these farmers and ranchers to bring innovative ideas to the table when it comes to addressing food security, creating economic enterprises, and building communities,” said Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden. “As we celebrate the first anniversary of the 2014 Farm Bill, programs like these are evidence that an investment in beginning farmers and ranchers is an investment in our future”.

The grant announcement was made at Recirculating Farms Coalition in New Orleans. Recirculating Farms received a BFRDP grant to develop training sessions focusing on soil-based production and aquaculture for new and beginning farmers in New Orleans.

The BFRDP program, first established by the 2008 Farm Bill, aims to support those who have farmed or ranched less than 10 years with workshops, educational teams, training, and technical assistance throughout the United States. NIFA awards grants to organizations that implement programs to train beginning farmers and ranchers. Today’s announcement was funded by the 2014 Farm Bill, which continued authorization of this program.

The 2014 Farm Bill mandated at least five percent of BFRDP funding support veterans and socially disadvantaged farmers. Among today’s announcement, more than 15 percent of the funded projects have a substantial component that supports veterans and farming, while about 50 percent of the projects focus mainly on socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers. A fact sheet with a complete list of awardees and project descriptions is available on the USDA website.

  • Since 2009, 184 awards have been made for more than $90 million through the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program. These awards are part of USDA’s deep commitment to beginning farmers and ranchers. Additional USDA investment in beginning farmers and ranchers include:
  • Since 2009, FSA has issued more than 8895,000 direct and guaranteed farm operating and farm ownership loans to beginning farmers and ranchers.
  • FSA’s microloan program, an important access point to credit for some new farmers and ranchers, has issued more than 9,600 microloans totaling $188 million. Seventy percent of these loans have gone to beginning farmers. Recently, USDA raised the ceiling for microloan from $35,000 to $50,000, giving new farmers access to more credit.
  • The 2014 Farm Bill also strengthens the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program for new producers by reducing the premiums on buy-up level coverage by 50 percent for new farmers and waiving their application fee. USDA announced this new tool for farmers and ranchers in 2015.
  • USDA’s Value-Added Producer Grants program gives priority to beginning farmers and ranchers to help them increase revenues through value-added agriculture, marketing, and new product development. Since 2009, more than 25 percent of 853 awarded Value Added Producer Grants went to beginning farmers and ranchers.

More information about USDA support for new farmers and ranchers is available at www.usda.gov/newfarmers.

The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program is currently accepting applications for the 2015 grant cycle. Applications are due March 13, 2015.

Funding for the BFRDP program is authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill. The Farm Bill builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past five years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers. Since enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit www.usda.gov/farmbill.

Through federal funding and leadership for research, education and extension programs, NIFA focuses on investing in science and solving critical issues impacting people’s daily lives and the nation’s future. More information is at: www.nifa.usda.gov.

Visit this site for the original press release.

Interns Needed!

Want to help beginning farmers get started?  Learn about how to develop programming, plan educational opportunities, and host events?  CFAC is looking for an intern for spring semester to assist with a range of projects, including:

  • Hosting topical potlucks for farmers on a variety of issues (see http://missoulacfac.org/farm-school.html for more info)
  • Supporting MSU Extension in offering business planning workshops in Bozeman (see http://missoulacfac.org/planning-for-on-farm-success-bozeman.html)
  • Planning on-farm field days geared towards farm interns and new farmers for Summer 2015
  • Developing opportunities to encourage local investment in farm and food businesses in Western Montana
  • Planning development of a statewide FarmLink site to serve as a one-stop clearinghouse for beginning farmers, land access, and internship/mentorship opportunities

As an intern, you will have the opportunity to focus in on one of these projects or assist with multiple projects.  To apply, email annie@missoulacfac.org with your resume and a brief cover letter outlining the project(s) in which you’re interested and any additional relevant information not covered in your resume.  While we are seeking funding for Summer 2015 interns, this internship is currently unpaid.  Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis but it is recommended that they be received by January 30, 2015.

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