Helena, Mont. – National Agriculture Day is celebrated every year on March 15th. This day is not only an opportunity to thank a farmer and rancher, but it’s also a chance to remember the importance of agriculture in Montana.
Agriculture’s economic impact has been fairly good the last few years. Since 2012, Montana farmers and ranchers grew the industry by $1 billion or 25 percent, going from $4.23 billion to $5.25 billion in the value of agricultural products sold by producers according to U.S. Census of Agriculture and National Agricultural Statistic Service. Commodity prices have slipped recently, yet opportunities for Montana agriculture continue to grow.
“We are seeing more and more producers diversify their farming and ranching portfolio to find niche markets that can help them weather the fluctuations in the market and growing season while adding value,” said Director Ron de Yong. “This is an exciting time to be in agriculture even with the challenges, because there are so many new opportunities and such a renewed interest in food and agriculture.”
The Montana Department of Agriculture’s mission is to protect producers and consumers, and to enhance and develop agriculture and allied industries. Over the last year some of the highlights include:
· Led nation in lentil and dry pea production
· Near record sugar beet harvest
· 3rd in wheat production
· 2nd in organic acreage
· 11th in cattle and calves
· $2.2 billion in crop production value
· $2.18 billion in livestock production value
· 2nd in honey production with 191 registered beekeepers
· 100th year of the state hail insurance program
· $2.2 million and 201 noxious weed grants awarded
· 191 producers participating in the Noxious Weed Seed Free Forage Program
There are a total of 27,500 farms and ranches, with an average size of 2,171 acres, in Montana. Nearly all are family farm and ranch operations. Montana ranks second in the nation for the most acres of land used by farms and ranches at 59.7 million acres.
Source: Montana Department of Agriculture
Photo courtesy of USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service: Yellow pea crop on Darryl Crowley's farm, located near Poplar, MT. July 17, 2012.