PART 1: Not a farmer or rancher?–Here’s why Ag should still matter to you.
Agriculture is one of Montana’s leading industries. In 2015, Montana agriculture generated $4.6 billion! That’s more money than the entire country of Fiji made that year.
Odds are, many (if not most) of you reading this are probably not farmers or ranchers. In fact, less than 2 percent of Montanans actually works directly in agriculture. But agriculture still plays a role in each of our lives, even if we aren’t dodging spring rain storms to till up the soil, or staying up every night during calving season.
Montana has more than 27,800 farms and 2.5 million cows. Agriculture impacts our local economies, our Montana culture, and our open lands. When the ag industry is strong, our rural communities do well.
Agriculture supports tons of jobs outside the fields — from truckers to railroad workers, bankers to miners, teachers to shop owners. And perhaps most importantly, our farmers and ranchers feed us. What do you have in your cupboard or fridge? Wheat and beef? Dry peas and lentils? Sugar or potatoes? Canola oil, organic veggies, or a six-pack of your favorite brew? Well, thank your Montana farmers.
Our Montana farmers and ranchers also feed people around the world. There are 7.5 billion people on the planet and more than 200,000 babies born every day. We have what the world wants. And the success of Montana’s agricultural industry depends on trade.
Just look at what trade does for Montana:
Better, high paying jobs and billions of dollars being brought into our state!? Now that’s a great reason to export!
Montana is the third-largest exporter of wheat in the nation. We’re fifth in other grains and honey, and we’re the sixth-largest exporter of dry peas and beans (www.tradepartnership.com).
Our wheat is some of the most sought-after in the world. Canada, Mexico, China, and Japan are our top buyers, and we’re starting to sell more to Peru and Chile. Yes, China may grow a lot of wheat and Russia may be increasing its production. But our quality is leaps and bounds above everyone else’s.
As for our beef? Right now, the Unites State is the fourth-largest producer of beef in the world. We’re behind Brazil, India, and Australia. But we should be higher in the rankings, and Montana can lead the way.
Our ranchers are finding creative ways to expand their reach. They’ve got markets in Korea and Japan that will take the cuts that Americans don’t want. And–thanks to negotiations started by Montana’s own Max Baucus in 2014–Montana beef is heading back to China. This is a huge opportunity. China’s middle class is larger than the entire U.S. population. That’s a lot of mouths to feed!
In the past couple of years, Montanans have begun to lead the way in growing and selling peas, lentils, and dried beans. Our international sales have been steadily rising for years. In fact, the trade of garbanzo beans has doubled in just three years. That’s because of the hard work and innovation of Montanans.
Farmers are getting creative. They’re adding value to these products by processing them here in the state. And they’re finding ways to sell all grades of their products so that nothing is wasted.
Montana’s farmers and ranchers understand the need to expand their markets around the world. We grow a high-quality product and we’re reliable business partners. Now, we just need to keep expanding those markets. We need to find more trade partners around the world so we can have more places to sell our high-quality, made-in-Montana products.
A strong trading network means a stronger economy. A stronger economy means vibrant, healthy communities. Because when ag wins, everyone in Montana wins.