Montanans ready for new economy in food, energy | TSLN.com
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Montanans ready for new economy in food, energy

A recent scientific poll commissioned by Northern Plains Resource Council found that Montanans are ready for an economy powered by new energy sources and promoting regional agricultural.

Only 15 percent of Montanans believe that the transition to renewable energy will have a negative effect on jobs, while 77 percent believe it will have a positive or neutral effect.

The survey was created by Professor Michaël Aklin of the University of Pittsburgh, Department of Political Science, and 705 randomly selected registered voters in Montana were polled from January 7-17, 2016.

“Despite posturing to the contrary by Montana’s investor owned utilities, fossil fuel companies, and some politicians, Montanans know that renewable energy is one of the fastest growing sectors of our nation’s economy and that it can benefit Montana too,” said Ed Gulick, former chair of the Northern Plains Resource Council and an architect at High Plains Architects in Billings.“Solar employment has grown at 20 times the national average for the past few years. These good-paying jobs await hard-working people all across the state if we open up more opportunities for distributed solar and wind energy.”

“We’re an agricultural state. Rather than importing food to eat and sending our food dollars out of state, we can keep Montana food dollars in-state by buying products from Montana farmers and ranchers. … Creating additional, local markets for Montana producers to sell into is critical to strengthening the economy of our rural communities—besides, it’s fresher and probably tastes better.” Jean Lemire Dahlman, Northern Plains member and Forsyth rancher

Additionally, Montanans are broadly supportive of increasing our consumption of Montana-grown food and believe it is a way to support the local economy.

At 94 percent, almost all Montanans support their local school district buying at least 20 percent of their food from Montana farmers and ranchers, even if it is more expensive or seasonal.

When asked why they try to purchase local food, respondents’ top two reasons were knowing more about their food and supporting the local economy.

“We’re an agricultural state. Rather than importing food to eat and sending our food dollars out of state, we can keep Montana food dollars in-state by buying products from Montana farmers and ranchers.” said Jean Lemire Dahlman, a Northern Plains member who ranches outside Forsyth. “Those dollars will have a multiplier effect as they circulate throughout Montana communities. Creating additional, local markets for Montana producers to sell into is critical to strengthening the economy of our rural communities—besides, its fresher and probably tastes better.”

Northern Plains Resource Council and its Billings affiliate, Yellowstone Valley Citizens Council, are actively working to increase consumption of locally produced food in Eastern Montana’s schools, hospitals, restaurants and other institutions.

The two organizations are completing a feasibility study to determine whether Billings can support a regional food hub for processing, storage, marketing, and distribution of Montana-grown food to institutional markets throughout Eastern Montana.

Regional food hubs are a proven nationwide model for creating the infrastructure necessary to increase consumption of local food; one successful example in Montana is the Mission Mountain Food Enterprise Center in Ronan.

To ensure that the 705-person sample was representative of the broader population of Montana, post-stratification weights were added. The sample is representative of Montana’s population in terms of age, income, gender, educational, and racial distribution.

Respondents heard one of four possible versions of a combination of arguments in favor and against local food production. The combination was randomly selected. Hearing about the cost of food or about seasonal reliability did not statistically affect the average level of support.

Northern Plains Resource Council is a grassroots conservation and family agriculture organization based in Billings. Founded in 1972, it organizes citizens to protect Montana’s water quality, family farms and ranches, and unique quality of life. Learn more at http://www.northernplains.org

–Northern Plains Resource Council


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