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Montana Ripe for Organic Farming

Montana added nearly 100,000 acres of organic farmland since 2016, according to a new report. (storebukkebruse/Flickr)
Montana added nearly 100,000 acres of organic farmland since 2016, according to a new report. (storebukkebruse/Flickr)
November 30, 2016

HELENA, Mont. - The last few years have been a growing season for organic farming in the United States. According to the Mercaris Organic Acreage Report, organic farmland reached more than four million acres this year. Montana saw a 30-percent jump over the last two years, giving it the second-most acreage in the country.

Georgana Webster, organic program manager at the Montana Department of Agriculture, said interest in organic foods has come from knowledge of where our food comes from.

"That's where education and being informed has led people to make decisions of how they want to provide food and what they want that food to look like and what they want to know about food," she said. "And so they don't want chemicals and herbicides and pesticides."

Montana has nearly a half-million acres dedicated to organic farmland and is edged out only by California. The Treasure State has added about 100,000 acres and 50 new farms since 2014. Nationwide, there was an 11-percent increase in organic farming. Still, organic crops make up a very small percentage of all crops grown.

Webster said organic produce typically stays within the state, but other things that Montana produces in massive quantities get shipped in part out of the state.

"Montana is very fortunate to have always had a strong ag base in those areas, grains and pulse and cattle, and now they're just able to market those in another format, which is organic," she explained.

Webster said the ease with which farmers can convert to organic has driven the organic farmland increase in Montana, alongside increased customer demand.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - MT