Convention workshops cover climate change, trade, biotech and breweries

Attendees at the Montana Farm Bureau Annual Convention Nov. 13-16 in Billlings had the opportunity to hear about GMO labeling, climate change and cooling, the Montana Rangelands Partnership, rural development and more.

Andrew Walmsley, American Farm Bureau, addressed the biotech labeling bill that was passed into law in July. “Although the bill isn’t perfect, it does take critical steps to prevent the state-by-state patchwork of laws that would have been harmful and confusing to consumers and incredibly onerous to implement,” said Walmsley. “We recognized how important, safe and prevalent bio-engineered food are. Although Farm Bureau would have preferred the labeling standards to be voluntary, this nationwide standard will at least provide a uniform standard which will be less confusing to consumers.”

Dr. Paul Stoy, Montana State University, provided an interesting look at research on climate change and climate cooling. Stoy noted that although the temperature is globally increasing, there are regional disparities. “Large areas the size of Wyoming have been cooling in the Great Plains and Prairie Provinces through June, July and August,” noted Stoy. “We haven’t had a warming trend in eastern Montana, and there has been an increase in moisture.”

Stoy’s research has demonstrated that by those areas of the Great Plains and Canada reducing summer fallow and planting cover crops, that area has seen an increase in humidity and cooler summers. “An area that had been basically dirt is now green, which has caused summer temperatures drop by 3 degrees.”

The Montana State University Extension Specialist, Dr. Jeff Mosely, talked about the Montana Rangelands Partnership. Mosely noted that the partnership which provides opportunities to landowners, is confidential, non-regulatory and free.

“We work with different groups, and can provide a one-on-one visit with landowners to hear their ideas. This partnership allows us to help a landowner choose different options in rangeland conservation. Most landowners have an idea about what they want. This program will facilitate that,” noted Mosely.

A social media workshop focused on marketing. “Many of our members are getting savvy about using social media, so this workshop showed them how to use it to successfully market their county Farm Bureau, their farm or ranch, and even personal businesses,” noted Montana Farm Bureau Social Media Coordinator Laura Nelson. “We talked about identifying an audience and targeting your communications.”

A unique workshop featured a new trend in rural development—breweries and distilleries. Casey McGowan of Trailhead Spirits and Chris and Barry Hedrich with 2 Bassett Brewery talked about starting their businesses and how they work with farmers to make their products. Members interested in estate planning and charitable giving were provided options in a talk by James McCarthy of Farm Bureau Financial Services. McCarthy noted how gifting strategies, such as donating to the Montana Farm Bureau Foundation, can provide excellent tax benefits.

“The variety of workshops were well-attended, and members came away with great new ideas to take back to their farms and ranches,” said MFBF Executive Vice President John Youngberg. “Although Dave Salmonsen, American Farm Bureau and Chris Eyler, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, talked about the benefits of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, Congressional leaders have indicated they will not take up TPP during this year’s lame duck session and, together with the new administration, will re-evaluate TPP next year.”

–Montana Farm Bureau Federation