Although agriculture is a competitive market, it’s conducive to cooperation as well.
“We all have the same goal,” says Cassidy Marn. “We want a place to sell product.”
Marn grew up on a farm in the Golden Triangle and is now the Trade and Marketing Manager of the Montana Wheat and Barley Committee. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the committee, which, since 1967, has brought farmers together to improve legislation, products, and markets for Montana agriculture.
The committee operates by pooling funds from wheat and barley sales, taking a few cents of each bushel. At the end of the year, farmers can have that money refunded if they choose, but few do.
“Our refund rate is well below two percent,” says Marn. “Most believe in what this office does.”
Funding of the MWBC goes toward research, education, quality checks, and various other programs. Plant breeding
programs are one of the primary ways that the committee gives its members a leg up against outside markets. MWBC funding helps ensure that seed varieties will have high yield, disease resistance, and tolerance to climatic conditions. These characteristics will help products perform well for producers, but in order to make a profit, they have to perform well for buyers too. That’s why each variety’s milling and baking qualities are tested as well. Historically, Montana’s wheat has been known around the world as a high quality blending wheat, a trend the committee continues to promote.
The committee is always looking for input; if a farmer has an idea, suggestion, or concern, they can take it to their district representative. (Seven make up the board of directors.)
“Everyone has representation,” says Marn. “It was a lot of work to get legislation passed to create this committee, but farmers saw the value of this common goal – working together to improve the industry.”