Federal lawmakers met with Montanans to discuss what is affecting farms and ranches throughout the state. Fourteen members of Montana Farmers Union, two of them Great Falls High School students, participated in National Farmers Union 2022 Fall Legislative fly-in held in September.
“This is a broken food supply system. And we went to the to our leaders of this country to talk about ways we can improve this,” said Walter Schweitzer, President of Montana Farmers Union.
Montana Farmers Union members along with 250 producers from around the country met to discuss the upcoming Farm Bill.
Within the bill falls important legislation that directly affects Montana.
The Meat and Poultry Special Investigator Act, The Cattle Price Discover and Transparency Act, American Beef Labeling Act, and rulemaking by the USDA to strengthen the Packers and Stockyards Act and the Right to Repair Legislation.
Schweitzer is an advocate for fairness and competition in agriculture markets. The Montana Farmers Union chose a youth leader from its annual “Montana Farmers Union Camp” to attend the fly-in.
Shania Van Spyke is a Great Falls High School senior and cross-country athlete. She has been going to MFU Camp for nearly ten years, as well as her siblings.
Van Spyke didn’t grow up in the agriculture community, rather, she grew up learning the leadership qualities taught through the Farmers Union.
Her job was to lobby for the Right to Repair Act.
“I think they took away a lot because we're the younger generation and they want to hear from us to improve for us.”
The trip wasn’t all work for the high school senior, they visited monuments, toured the Capitol, and her favorite exhibit, the Holocaust Museum.
“Shania, she's a rock star at our camp, and this camp is important because it's educating our next generation of leaders.”
The trip to Washington D.C. was a learning experience for Van Spyke and nerves didn’t shy her from doing her part to support the community she represents.
“I really liked meeting (U.S. Senator) Jon Tester. He is very like real with you and like he introduced himself to us really quickly,” said Van Spyke.
The young generation plays a key role when it comes to how congress votes on bills. She felt, they truly listened to what they had to say.
"Letting young people know that their voice is important and that if they're able to speak up and be heard, it can add to the process and make the process work better,” said Tester.
Voices being heard can light the fire a young person needs to ignite change.
Schweitzer said, “They might be our next congresswoman. They might be our next senator. But it's more important than anything they know about agriculture and know where their food comes from.”
Tester touched on how getting the youth involved or interested in agriculture is important because of the role it plays throughout the state. It is the largest economy and revenue provider for its people.
“For folks on the ground in production agriculture about what needs to be in this next farm bill is critically important not only for me, but for everybody in the United States Senate, because ultimately this baby is going to come to the floor and we're all going to vote on it. And we need to have a good bill that passes and gets to the president's desk,” said Tester.
Schweitzer said, “I was humbled by my experience in Washington D.C. I just wished that our grandparents were alive today so we could thank them for starting Farmers Union organizations over 100 years ago, because it was clear that we're having an impact in Washington, D.C.”
The current bill will be voted on in the next year. The length of the bill lasts a total of five years, and goes back to Congress for a revamp and updates.