Tester Secures More than $478,000 to Promote Montana-Grown Food, Support Producers
Helena-based AERO to receive funding for Abundant Montana Program
As a part of his continued push to support Montana’s producers and small businesses, U.S. Senator Jon Tester today secured $478,991 from his 2018 Farm Bill and Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23) government funding bill for the Helena-based Alternative Energy Resources Organization (AERO) to continue its Abundant Montana program.
Abundant Montana is a statewide program designed to educate consumers about the value of local food and where to find it, while simultaneously supporting food and farming enterprises in building thoughtful, well-connected, successful businesses by providing affordable promotion, education, and marketing technical assistance services.
“As a farmer, I can tell you with 100% certainty that Montana’s producers raise the best food in the world,” said Tester. “With consolidation in the ag industry near all-time highs, it’s critical that we have groups like AERO to help boost demand for locally grown Montana food and to help keep Montana’s number one industry thriving. Our state and our economy are stronger when we eat local, and I’ll keep fighting every day in Washington to keep our producers strong.”
Funding will be delivered to AERO through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service’s Local Food Promotion Program (LFPP). The Local Food Promotion Program is funded through the 2018 Farm Bill and FY23 government funding bill. Abundant Montana will use the funding to:
- Build relationships with producers, retailers, and communities across MT through presentations, tabling, and value chain coordination events and services, expanding demand for and access to locally and regionally produced agricultural products;
- Print and distribute their annual Local Food Guide, a free, consumer-focused magazine distributed to retail and tourist destinations statewide, highlighting MT producers and their market channels, including local food retailers and Farmers Markets
- Develop staff/program expertise in:
- print marketing and distribution in Montana’s unique geography of separated, small urban centers
- building lasting relationships and recurring customer engagement in a revenue-driven service enterprise.
LFPP funds support local and regional food businesses that engage as intermediaries in indirect producer to consumer marketing. LFPP projects focus on activities such as supporting the processing, aggregation, distribution, and storage of local and regional food products; developing value-added products; and facilitating regional food chain coordination.
Tester helped authorize LFPP in the 2018 Farm Bill, and he was the only member of Montana’s Congressional delegation to vote for the FY23 government funding bill which funded this grant.
As the only working farmer in the United States Senate, Tester has long been a champion for investing in Montana’s food security. In 2022, Tester secured six LFPP grants totaling $1,968,000 for Montana organizations to improve food distribution networks across the state. In 2020 he helped negotiate the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) which delivered $7.8 million to 30 Montana ag small businesses in March of 2022 to improve local food systems. The $7.8 million in targeted APRA funding was delivered to 17 meat processing projects, 10 value added agriculture projects, and three new USDA certified meat processing facilities.