Agriculture

Professor Michelle Flenniken points to emerging adult bees in her lab at Montana State University, June 19, 2019.
Rachel Cramer / Yellowstone Public Radio

Honey bees play a vital role pollinating many of the nuts, fruits and vegetables we eat, and they’re an important part of Montana’s economy. But the number of bees dying each year is higher than it was two decades ago. A team of researchers are looking for solutions, ranging from new genetic clues to wildflowers.

A raw steak, January 2012.
Taryn/FLICKR (CC BY-SA 2.0)

A new trade agreement announced Friday could mean more Montana beef makes its way to European consumers. 

Martin Abegglen / Flickr


The Montana Department of Agriculture has extended its application deadline for farmers interested in planting industrial hemp.

A cow looks up on a farm near Bridger, Montana.
Kayla Desroches / Yellowstone Public Radio

A new federal bill co-sponsored by Montana’s Democratic Senator Jon Tester proposes temporarily stopping large food and agribusiness corporations from consolidating. It aims to increase competition in the market to support better prices for farmers and ranchers.

A bowl of hummus is surround by pieces of pita bread.
Public Domain

Americans’ growing love of hummus and other plant-based proteins has helped make Montana the number one producer of chickpeas and lentils in the country. But Big Sky farmers are watching politics in India and international trade disputes play out before going all in on a pulse crop powered love affair.

Kayla Desroches / Yellowstone Public Radio

Research shows that farmers experience rates of especially high anxiety compared to other jobs. What’s more, farmers in rural areas like Montana often have limited access to mental health resources.

In late April, Montana farmer Michelle Erickson-Jones posted a video to Twitter.

In the video, on a windy day against a green field and overcast sky, Erickson-Jones talks about uncertainty around trade, dropping wheat prices, and her issues finding a therapist.

Wheat and barley fields south of Manhattan, Montana, April 27, 2019.
Rachel Cramer / Yellowstone Public Radio

Farming is always a gamble in Montana, but this year a new tariff on wheat and an undefined trade deal with Japan means more uncertainty for farmers as they plant this spring. President Trump discussed agricultural trade negotiations last week with the prime minister of Japan — Montana’s largest importer of wheat. The talk comes two years after Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Kayla Desroches / Yellowstone Public Radio

The bipartisan advocacy group Farmers For Free Trade has spent the past two weeks driving across the midwest rallying farmers behind the new trade plan between the United States, Mexico, and Canada. They’re pushing for Congress to pass the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, replacement.

On Friday, almost 20 people shared a meal of meat, rolls, beans, and pasta at the 11th and final stop of Broadview, just north of Billings. They were on the property of Michelle Erickson-Jones, farmer and past president of the Montana Grain Growers Association.

The Chocolate Chirp Cookies are Cowboy Cricket Farms' largest income-producing product.
Rachel Cramer / Yellowstone Public Radio

From grain malting to cheese production, farmers and ranchers in Montana are finding new ways to add value to their raw products. And for one farm in Belgrade, that raw product chirps. Cowboy Cricket Farms is one of twenty operations that received a state grant earlier this year to scale up and break into new markets.

Flickr User, Candace Fladager (CC-By-2.0)

 

Farm income in Montana dropped nearly 30 percent from 2012 to 2017, according to the new U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2017 Census of Agriculture.

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