Policy is the backbone of our entire food system. From soil health and sustainable farming practices to nutrition and food security, food and agricultural policy significantly impacts what ends up on our plates. While the Farm Bill governs an array of federal programs and funding, there are also many policies at the state and local level that have implications for Montana’s local food system.
The state government in Montana is modeled after the federal government, meaning it has three branches. The Governor heads the executive branch, the court system represents the judicial branch, and the legislative branch is called the Montana Legislature. Responsible for making laws to address the needs of its citizens, the Montana Legislature comprises 100 elected Representatives and 50 elected Senators.
The Montana Legislature holds regular sessions on odd-numbered years. Beginning the first Monday in January, the legislature meets in regular session for 90 working days. During this time, legislators enact new laws, amend or repeal existing laws, and decide how much money to spend on state-wide programs and services. When the regular session is not convening, the legislature may meet in special sessions for pressing issues.
While legislative sessions are a great time to take action and ensure your voice is heard, knowing where to start can be overwhelming. It can be challenging to track which bills are essential to food and agriculture and precisely what they mean. Thankfully, Grow Montana, a state-wide food policy coalition working to improve access to healthy Montana foods, makes knowing when and how to take action easy. Here are three simple ways you can help make a difference:
During legislative sessions, Grow Montana sends out Action Alerts that break down proposed laws and their implications for local food and agriculture. Action Alerts include open calls for citizens to contact their legislators, provide written or oral testimony, or ask for feedback on policy development.
During the 2021 Montana Legislative Session, Grow MT:
Our voices are louder together. The Grow Montana Food Policy Coalition is a grassroots effort that brings together non-profit organizations, state agencies, community allies, and individuals to collectively work on policy that impacts Montana Food Systems.
Participate in the coalition to:
Local elections don’t receive the same media attention as national elections but play a significant role in our communities.
Do you know who your local officials are? Do their values align with yours? Have they supported food and agriculture policies in the past? We all have one senator and one representative speaking for us in the Montana Legislature.
Senators are up for reelection every four years, and Representatives are up for reelection every two years meaning that there is ample opportunity to make sure your voice is heard at the polls.