U.S. Department of Agriculture

Michele Schahczenski, the general manager of the Yellowstone Valley Food Hub, greets a local food purchaser in Billings, Montana in June, 2020.
Sarah Brown/Yellowstone Public Radio

 


This story is part of a series on lasting ways Montana is adapting to the pandemic. It’s funded in part by the Solutions Journalism Network.

The coronavirus pandemic has hit Montana’s cattle ranchers hard. Midwest meat plants shuttered because of disease outbreaks, upending the traditional supply chain and leaving ranchers with animals they might not be able to sell. The burgeoning local food systems may play more of a role going forward. 

Bison move through the Lamar Valley in Yellowstone National Park on October 14, 2015.
Public Domain

Eleven bull bison quarantined in a federal facility near Yellowstone National Park were transferred to the Fort Peck Indian Reservation on June 24. There, they’ll complete the final phase of a program to make sure they are disease free before being sent out to start or boost herds across the U.S.

Montana's Family Farms And Ranches Face Uncertain Future As Producers Age Out

Jun 18, 2020
68-year-old Hugh Spencer checks on one of his three chicken barns near Plains, Montana takne on June 11, 2020.
Nolan Lister / Helena Independent Record


The 68 year old poultry farmer pointed out the hen houses he built decades ago, providing details of each wooden tenement residents.

Hugh Spencer built the hen houses and accompanying grain bins, which look like high density housing for chickens, shortly after he and his wife, Viki, purchased the land in 1981.

*UPDATED 06/13 

The U.S. Agriculture Secretary visited Missoula Friday to announce a blueprint to prioritize work for the U.S Forest Service.

Supporters say it will modernize the agency and cut unnecessary red tape. Opponents, however, counter it will undermine the nation’s laws aimed at protecting the environment.

A photo of children enjoying lunch at school, taken on January 20, 2005
Judy Baxter / (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The same nutrition program that provided needed meals to Montana students during the school closures this spring will continue to feed hungry children this summer.

The M-44 is a spring-loaded device that realeases sodium cyanide when triggered. This particular device used a non-toxic substance since it was for a demonstration in Lewistown, June 21, 2019.
Rachel Cramer / Yellowstone Public Radio


A federal agency agreed to temporarily limit how and where it kills wildlife that threaten livestock in Montana. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reached the settlement in federal court with WildEarth Guardians May 14.

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


While economists warn of potential meat shortages in grocery stores this month, livestock producers are struggling to find ways of getting their animals to market for a fair price. Many ranchers in Montana are seeking out more local options and hoping for reforms in the industry. Yellowstone Public Radio’s Rachel Cramer shared her reporting with Nicky Ouellet.

Close-up of wheat crops along Highway 2
Roy Luck / Flickr (CC-BY-2.0)

Montana Governor Steve Bullock announced Friday that farmers in more than a dozen counties will be eligible for federal assistance after significant crop losses from excessive rain and snow last year.

A feral hog sow with sixteen piglets
AgriLife Today / Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

 

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly named Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks as the lead agency regarding feral swine. The Montana Department of Livestock is leading the prevention effort.  

Feral swine been in the news a lot lately. While they make for an entertaining headline, wildlife managers in Montana are increasingly concerned about the damage these invasive pigs can cause to farmers, ranchers, the environment and Montana’s outdoor recreation economy. 

A close-up of industrial hemp,  July 16, 2013.
Marcia O'Connor/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Montana’s Democratic Senator Jon Tester said in a press call Thursday new federal regulations for hemp could create more certainty for farmers and boost job growth in the state.

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