Deputy Sec. Of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan Speaks At MSU

NBC Montana

by Mike Mestas

BOZEMAN, Mont. — Sen. Jon Tester and Deputy Sec. of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan joined together Saturday to put a focus on growing local, small agricultural operations.

Tester hosted a Small Business Opportunity Workshop at Montana State University Saturday.

Merrigan was the keynote speaker at the event.

The workshop focused on helping small agricultural producers gather ideas about how they could expand business, and potentially hire people.

Tester said he wanted the emphasis to be put on accessing capital, and risk management.

People from the agricultural industry gathered in workshop sessions to discuss ways they could build business.

Tester said he would like to see a focus on seeing more processing done in the state. Not in just the food industry, but in many other industries.

"We have got incredible opportunity to add value to our agricultural products, and expand production into a lot of different areas," he said.

Tester had been in Bozeman since Friday discussing small business. He said growing local operations is the key to economically healthy communities.

Merrigan said a focus should be put on small farms, because there has been an out-migration from small, rural communities.

She said young people need to stay in communities to help them become viable.

"One thing this Obama administration has been focused on is building local and regional food systems. So more of the money stays in local economies. More of it stays in the farms, and it helps build rural vitality," Merrigan said.

Tester has previously held workshops in other Montana communities, including Missoula, Kalispell and Billings.