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Montana Farmers "Fly-in" to Bend Ears in DC

Big Sandy farmer Kelly Rutledge is in Washington, D.C., to press members of Congress on agricultural issues close to home. Credit: Montana Farmers Union.
Big Sandy farmer Kelly Rutledge is in Washington, D.C., to press members of Congress on agricultural issues close to home. Credit: Montana Farmers Union.
September 17, 2015

GREAT FALLS, Mont. – Food labeling, sage grouse, renewable-energy standards and new trade markets. It's a long list of priorities for Montana farmers and ranchers visiting Washington D.C. this week on the annual "fly-in" to meet with members of Congress.

Big Sandy farmer Kelly Rutledge with the Montana Farmers Union delegation says country-of-origin labeling is one of the hottest topics, with legislation being considered to cancel the law – but he says a voluntary option is also being debated.

"We'd rather have mandatory, but the World Trade Organization voted against that," he says. "We're hoping that the voluntary will go through, because we think voluntary is still better than no country-of-origin labeling."

A dozen Montanans are in D.C. for the meetings, offering a local perspective on the impacts of national policies.

Rutledge says Montana agriculture products have a high standard of quality that is well received internationally, and Montana Farmers Union wants to be sure options with Cuba are explored.

"Now that we're opening up stuff with Cuba, we want to start being able to trade with them," he says. "That's an untapped market for U.S. products."

Later this month, a decision will be announced about whether to list greater sage-grouse as an endangered species. Montana Farmers Union is against a federal listing, but in support of the state's plan for conservation of sagebrush habitat.

Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - MT