Members of the Grow Montana Food Policy Coalition have spoken with stakeholders, allies, and decision-makers across the state during the past year, gathering ideas about how to help local food producers and their communities prosper. Inspired by those conversations, coalition members have chosen our top priorities for the next year: pursuing state-level support for farm to school projects that will nourish Montana’s children while building healthy communities; ensuring that impending changes to our food-safety laws are friendly to local producers and businesses; and educating Montanans about opportunities to weigh in on policies that impact our food system.

Here is a roundup of our policy priorities as well as ways to join us in building a vibrant Montana-based food system.

Support for Farm to School programs
Programs that bring local foods into schools are good for children and good for our communities: they improve nutrition in our schools and help keep money and jobs in the state. Montana has made great strides in farm to school over the past few years, but state-level support is needed for farm to school to truly flourish under the Big Sky. Based on input from our fellow Montanans as well as successful models in other states, Grow Montana is pursuing the creation of a farm to school coordinator position within the state government alongside a farm to school seed-grant program. This position and grant program would provide statewide support to make it easier for local schools to buy and serve food produced by Montanans. By providing coordination, training, and a small resource boost to get schools going, this policy will help bring more nutritious foods to our school children, allow producers and food entrepreneurs to grow and diversify their businesses, and retain money within our communities that would otherwise leave the state.

Streamlining food-safety regulations
Montana’s current patchwork of confusing and complicated food-safety rules are a problem for Montana’s farmers and food entrepreneurs. Recently, Grow Montana participated in a public process to review, streamline, and improve our state’s food regulations. We are committed to seeing that any policy changes made as a result of this process work for Montana’s local food producers and businesses. This includes crafting a cottage food law that will truly expand business opportunities for home-based food businesses and advocating for sensible rules to allow local small-scale poultry production.

Supporting other sensible solutions
Grow Montana also works with a broad range of allies that are working on growing a more robust and vibrant local food system. We are prepared to work with them in the coming year help educate and engage Montanans on a number of issues, including defending protections for agricultural land, ensuring that Montana’s vital Food and Agricultural Development Center program is supported, and more. If you are interested in sharing a policy idea with Grow Montana, please contact us.

We need you!
The Grow Montana Food Policy Coalition believes that when neighbors feed neighbors we can strengthen our communities, improve the health of individuals, and grow our economy. We bring a statewide voice to local-food system development and advocate for policy changes that will build robust local and regional food systems—but we can’t do it without you! As we enthusiastically continue to move the local-food system movement forward and prepare for the upcoming legislative session, we need your help. We need your support, voice, and involvement if we are to achieve our goals. Here are some ways to help:

  • Donate to help fund our policy efforts. Your support is absolutely essential to ensuring our success. Visit our donation page here, and please be sure to note that the donation is for “Grow Montana Policy” in the comment box.
  • Stay connected to us. Sign up for the Montana Food and Ag. Listserv to stay connected to food and agriculture leaders across the state, including updates from Grow Montana on ways to be involved
  • Reach out to us. Want to learn more or become more deeply involved with our efforts? Are you a part of an organization that you think would be a good Grow Montana ally? Have a great policy idea to share? Click here to send a message to Grow Montana.