Montana Stockgrowers Association

The Montana Stockgrowers Association, a non-profit membership organization, has worked on behalf of Montana’s cattle ranching families since 1884. Our mission is to protect and enhance Montana ranch families’ ability to grow and deliver safe, healthy, environmentally wholesome beef to the world.

MDA Encouraging Support for Ag Literacy Program During Tax Season

The Montana Department of Agriculture (MDA) is encouraging Montanans to support the Montana Agriculture in the Classroom program this tax season by contributing to the voluntary check-off program when filing this year’s income taxes.

“As the average age of farmers and ranchers continues to rise, it’s more important than ever that we educate the next generation on the importance of agriculture,” said MDA Director Ben Thomas. “Contributing to the check-off allows filers to invest directly in students and teachers throughout Montana.”

Filers can make tax-deductible donations to the program by checking the box for Ag Literacy in Montana Schools, by selecting either line 69c on the long form or 18c on the EZ form. The form indicates $5 and $10 donation amounts, as well as a blank line to write in the filer’s designated donation amount.

The Montana Agriculture in the Classroom program provides schools and communities with opportunities to learn about agriculture in a fun and effective way, and seeks to instill appreciation for local agriculture and food production. The program provides teachers with timely, accurate, and integrated standards-based curriculum on Montana agriculture through “hands on, minds on” activities, while encouraging critical thinking among students about the role of agriculture in tomorrow’s world.

The Montana Department of Agriculture’s mission is to protect producers and consumers, and to enhance and develop agriculture and allied industries. For more information on the Montana Department of Agriculture, visit


NCBA Applauds Another 90-Day Delay in Electronic Logging Device Mandate

Mandate Was To Have Taken Effect on Sunday, March 18

National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President Kevin Kester today issued the following statement regarding the U.S. Department of Transportation’s announcement that the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) mandate will be delayed another 90 days for agricultural haulers:

“This is obviously good news for America’s cattle haulers and producers, and it will provide FMCSA (the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) more time to educate our livestock haulers on the ELDs while industry works on solutions to the current Hours of Service rules that simply do not work for those hauling live animals.

“We would like to thank Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao and FMCSA Administrator Ray Martinez for listening to our concerns and working with us to find a permanent, workable solution.”

NOTE: Click here to learn more about the ELD mandate and NCBA’s work on the issue.

USDA Offers Renewal Options for Expiring Conservation Stewardship Contracts

Agricultural producers wanting to enhance current conservation efforts are encouraged to renew their Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) contract.

Through CSP, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) helps private landowners build their business while implementing conservation practices that help ensure the sustainability of their entire operation.

Participants with existing CSP contracts expiring on Dec. 31, 2018, can access the benefits of the recent program changes through an option to renew their contracts for an additional five years if they agree to adopt additional activities to achieve higher levels of conservation on their lands.

NRCS will mail contract renewal notification letters to all participants whose contracts expire in 2018, which will contain instructions on how to apply for renewal.

Applications to renew expiring contracts are due by April 13.

Through CSP, agricultural producers and forest landowners earn payments for actively managing, maintaining, and expanding conservation activities like cover crops, ecologically-based pest management, buffer strips, and pollinator and beneficial insect habitat – all while maintaining active agriculture production on their land. CSP also encourages the adoption of cutting-edge technologies and new management techniques such as precision agriculture applications, on-site carbon storage and planting for high carbon sequestration rate, and new soil amendments to improve water quality.

Some of the benefits of CSP include:

  • Improved cattle gains per acre;
  • Increased crop yields;
  • Decreased inputs;
  • Wildlife population improvements; and
  • Better resilience to weather extremes.

NRCS recently made several updates to the program to help producers better evaluate their conservation options and the benefits to their operations and natural resources. New methods and software for evaluating applications help producers see up front why they are or are not meeting stewardship thresholds, and allow them to pick practices and enhancements that work for their conservation objectives. These tools also enable producers to see potential payment scenarios for conservation early in the process.

Producers interested in CSP are recommended to contact their local USDA service center or visit

Source: Montana NRCS

Current Snowpack and Coming Spring Weather Critical to Summer Water Supplies

Snowfall in some locations of Montana has been record-breaking during February, resulting in snowpack totals for March 1st that are well above normal for most river basins, according to snow survey data collected by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Twenty-five SNOTEL (SNOwpack TELemetry) stations and manual measurement locations set new records for February totals, and 21 measurements at other locations were the second highest on record.

“Abundant mountain, valley and plains snowfall this winter have Montana under a blanket of snow at the beginning of March,” said Lucas Zukiewicz, NRCS water supply specialist for Montana. “While this is great news for long-term water supply, it’s been hard on a lot of families and businesses in the plains.”

Snowpack totals are above normal in all major river basins of the state of Montana for March 1, and some measurement locations are setting records for this date. Fifteen snowpack measurement locations have set a new record for March 1, and 12 are the second highest on record. Most of these records are being set in the headwaters of the Upper Clark Fork, mountains of the Missouri Mainstem around Helena and in the headwaters of the Upper Yellowstone and Clark’s Fork of the Yellowstone River basins. While not record-setting, most other river basins have seen consistent and above normal moisture this winter due to the favorable La Nina weather patterns this winter. Many snowpack measurement locations have already reached the normal “peak,” or maximum amount of snow water contained in the snowpack, on March 1st. Zukiewicz said only one area seems to be left out of this year, the Centennial range which serves as the headwaters for the Red Rock River in southwestern Montana. It has a snowpack that remains below normal for this date.

“As we approach spring, water users across the state start to plan for the coming growing season, water supply and allocations from spring runoff of the mountain snowpack,” Zukiewicz said. “This year looks to deliver above average flows in the rivers in most locations due to the deep mountain snowpack.”

On March 1, the NRCS Montana Snow Survey began to issue forecasts for the spring and summer runoff with many locations forecasted to be above to well above average. Some forecasted volumes for rivers in south-central Montana for the April 1 through July 31 period are approaching records. “The median forecast for the Clark’s Fork at Belfry, Mont., is above the record for that location,” Zukiewicz said. “There’s going to be a lot of water coming out of the Beartooth Range this spring and summer.”

While spring is always critical to the timing and volume of water supply, Zukiewicz said he will keep a close eye on the week-to-week weather patterns over the next few months. Climatologically, the months of March through May are some of the most significant months with regards to precipitation for river basins east of the Divide, and many basins already have an above-normal snowpack. Any continued snowfall will build on the above normal snowpack and will further increase the amount of water available for runoff.

“At this point, we have pretty close to assured adequate water supply in many areas due to heavy early season snowfall,” Zukiewicz said. “As much as it pains me to say it, a normal month or two would be the best case scenario from here on out.” The NRCS Montana Snow Survey will issue the next snowpack report and updated water supply forecasts for the state on April 1, 2018. “By then we should have a good idea if this pattern is going to break or keep going.”

Individual point forecasts for streams and rivers can be found in the monthly NRCS Water Supply Outlook Report and should be consulted as conditions vary from basin to basin, and even within the basins themselves.

Monthly Water Supply Outlook Reports can be found at the website below after the 5th business day of the month:

Source: NRCS

Montana Stockgrowers Foundation offers $1,000 scholarship

The Montana Stockgrowers Foundation is offering an Educational Heritage Scholarship in the amount of $1,000.

“Thanks to the vision and hard work of  Stockgrower members in Southeastern Montana, the Montana Stockgrowers Foundation is once again able to offer our Educational Heritage Scholarship,” noted Foundation Chairman, John Grande.  “Every year we are impressed by the quality of the college students who apply for this scholarship and we again look forward to selecting and meeting a new winner.”

To be eligible for the Educational Heritage Scholarship, students must currently be enrolled in college and have completed at least one semester of coursework, be a member of Montana Stockgrowers Association (MSGA), and demonstrate a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0.

Applicants must complete the application form, include a copy of their current transcript, write a 500-word essay discussing their educational pursuits, and include two letters of recommendation.


For more information on this scholarship and to apply online, visit the MSGA website at For questions, please email Kori Anderson at If you are interested in these scholarships but are not currently a member of MSGA, join today. Student memberships start at just $20.


The Montana Stockgrowers Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization established to ensure the future of Montana’s cattle industry through producer and public education, and promotion of MSGA programs. Its mission is to invest in Montana’ ranching community through leadership, education, and conservation.

Hay Donations and Transportation Needed

Helena, Mont. – Due to the ongoing impacts of severe winter weather, there is currently a significant and urgent need for hay on both the Northern Cheyenne and Fort Belknap reservations. Producers willing to donate hay and/or hauling services can contact emergency personnel at the following numbers:

Northern Cheyenne: Gene Small – (406) 665-6290 or (406) 477-8474

Fort Belknap:            John Young – (406) 353-4874

The Montana Hay Hotline is also available to producers as an online tool to donate, buy, or sell hay. Producers needing donated hay or producers wanting to donate hay can go to the site and create a donation listing by selecting “Donation” from the “Forage Type” dropdown menu. Users can also search existing listings to see what is currently available to purchase or create a new listing of hay for sale. Visit the online tool at:

Over $700,000 awarded to strengthen and diversify Montana’s Ag Industry

Governor Steve Bullock and the Agriculture Development Council today announced the recipients of $726,600 in grants and loans to agricultural businesses and organizations.

“Investing in innovative, value-added projects is vital to Montana’s agriculture industry and our rural communities,” said Governor Bullock. “These projects are a great representation of the diversity of Montana agriculture and showcase some of the ingenuity happening throughout the different sectors of Montana’s economy.”

A total of 25 businesses and organizations were awarded funds through the Growth Through Agriculture program (GTA) which was established by the legislature to strengthen and diversify Montana’s agriculture industry by developing new agricultural products and processes. GTA grants and loans are awarded by the Agriculture Development Council, a seven-member committee appointed by the Governor.

Two projects geared towards conventional agriculture aim to help producers in the areas of on-farm safety & storage and soil health, while another will assist in the expansion of a value-added family ranch operation.

  • Cowtown Ag Supply, LLC of Miles City was awarded a loan and a grant totaling $50,000 to assist with the expansion of the company’s manufacturing line of hopper cone bottoms that can be used to make farmers’ existing grain bins safer, easier to use and better able to preserve the quality of more sensitive grains such as pea and chickpeas. The funding will also help with the creation of 10 jobs in the community.
  • Beartooth Fertilizer Inc. of Bridger was awarded a grant for $50,000 to expand the company’s natural soil improvement products that will be able to help non-productive soil become productive and provide conventional and organic-certified soil treatments.
  • Prairie Grass Ranch of Havre was awarded a grant of $8,000 to assist in the vertical integration and marketing of the family’s grass-fed beef products.

A full list of funded projects can be found at this website.

“Montana agriculture must continue to innovate and we can’t be satisfied with just being a ‘raw commodity’ state,” said Agriculture Development Council Vice-Chair, Lars Hanson. “These grants and loans add value to Montana’s agriculture industry, while also supporting our rural communities and encouraging young people to come back to the operation.”

The Montana Department of Agriculture’s mission is to protect producers and consumers, and to enhance and develop agriculture and allied industries. For more information on the Montana Department of Agriculture, visit

Source: State of Montana

Soil health and acidity workshop offered by MSU

The Chouteau County Soil Acidity Working Group has organized a soil acidity and soil health workshop at the Fort Benton Ag Center, 1205 20th St., on Feb. 27, in cooperation with Montana State University Extension, the Chouteau County Conservation District, Big Sandy Conservation District and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resource Conservation Service.

MSU Extension will co-host a soil acidity and soil health workshop at the Fort Benton Ag Center on Feb. 27.

Registration for the workshop will begin at 9:30 a.m., with presentations beginning at 10 a.m.

Most agricultural soils in Montana have near-neutral to alkaline conditions with surface soil at pH 6.5 to 8, according to Clain Jones, a soil fertility specialist with MSU Extension. Some areas of Montana, however, have developed acidic soil layers in the seeding zone, which consists of about the top 6 inches of soil, Jones said. Speakers at the conference will address the issues surrounding increasing soil acidity.

The morning presentations will include a producer report and presentations from the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service, Chouteau County Conservation District, MSU researchers and MSU Extension.

The afternoon programs will all be via teleconference and will include soil specialists from Washington State and North Dakota.

A brief Chouteau County Soil Acidity Working Group meeting will follow the workshop.

Presentations will include:

“Identifying Soil Acidity in your Fields,” Kent Squires and Bill Summers, Geraldine, producers.

“Identifying Soil Acidity Issues when Looking at Soil Tests,” Marni Thompson, NRCS resource conservationist.

Chouteau County Conservation District update, Dale Krause, ag consultant and certified crop adviser for Chouteau County Conservation District. Krause will update producers on the CCCD Cover Crop Acidity project.

“Preventing Acidification,” Clain Jones, MSU Extension soil fertility specialist.

“Soil Acidity Tolerance in Cereal Grain Varieties,” Jason Cook, MSU plant sciences and plant pathology.

“Soil Acidity and Soil Health,” Jon Stika, Dickinson, North Dakota, research and extension center agronomist, via teleconference. Stika will cover increasing soil organic matter and discuss how improving soil biology can assist with soil acidity.

“Lime Materials and Application,” Dave Huggins, USDA Agricultural Research Service in Washington state, via teleconference. Huggins will discuss options for choosing lime materials, as well as considerations such as particle size and percent calcium carbonate. The differences between pH and buffer pH will also be addressed.

“Managing Soil Acidity in No-Till Systems,” Dave Franzen, Extension soil specialist at North Dakota State University, via teleconference. Franzen will discuss the importance of no-till and drawbacks to deep tillage. He will also cover why and how soil acidity develops and cover liming material success of surface lime applications in no-till studies.

Funding for the workshop is thanks to an MSU grant from USDA’s Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program, the Chouteau County Extension office and the Chouteau County Conservation District. Lunch will be provided.

For more information or to register, contact Tyler Lane, MSU Extension Chouteau County, at 406-622-3751 or Register by Friday, Feb. 23, to ensure a lunch reservation.

Montana FSA: Administration appoints new state executive director

The Trump Administration recently appointed Michael Foster as the new State Executive Director (SED) for the USDA Montana Farm Service Agency (FSA). Foster began his new position on Feb. 20, 2018.

Foster was born and raised in Townsend, Montana, and currently resides in Bozeman. From 1991 to 1994, he represented the 32nd District in the Montana House of Representatives. He then served as a state senator representing Montana’s 20th District from 1995 to 1998, where he was majority whip. Foster most recently served as regional director of advocacy for St. Vincent Healthcare.

The Farm Service Agency serves farmers, ranchers and agricultural partners through the delivery of effective, efficient agricultural programs. The agency offers farmers a strong safety net through the administration of farm commodity and disaster programs. FSA continues to conserve natural resources and also provides credit to agricultural producers who are unable to receive private, commercial credit, including special emphasis on beginning, underserved and women farmers and ranchers.

Under the direction of Secretary Sonny Perdue, the USDA will always be facts-based and data-driven, with a decision-making mindset that is customer-focused. Secretary Perdue leads the USDA with four guiding principles: to maximize the ability of American agriculture to create jobs, sell food and fiber, and feed and clothe the world; to prioritize customer service for the taxpayers; to ensure that our food supply is safe and secure; and to maintain good stewardship of the natural resources that provide us with our miraculous bounty. And understanding that we live in a global economy where trade is of top importance, Secretary Perdue has pledged to be an unapologetic advocate for American agriculture.

As SED, Foster will use his leadership experience to oversee FSA programs in a customer-focused manner to ensure a safe, affordable, abundant and nutritious food supply for consumers.

–Montana FSA