By Matt B. Walen
Havre-area agriculture producers take to the rolling hills and flat, fertile plains before the wheat fields can be planted or harvested and before the fall calves crop can be taken to market.
These producers the hundreds of dedicated servants of the land along the Hi-Line are the many friends and neighbors in the Havre area.
But times are tough in agriculture country. Hi-Line producers in all aspects of the business, be it farming, ranching or hog production, are stretching to make ends meet.
Murdy Rismon, a member of the Hill County Farm Service Agencys County Committee and the vice president of Premium Pork, said the group planning a proposed sow production facility north of Havre will try to again this winter.
The pork industry isnt predicted to make a recovery until the second or third quarter in 2000, Rismon said. That means another nine to 12 months of hard times for the pork industry, he said.
We are going to have to continue to tighten our belts, he said. That makes it really tight for us at Premium Pork. But we will make another stab at it this winter.
Producers in general are good people to be around, Rismon said.
There are good people out here, he said. And people are just generally willing to help each other out out here.
Producers are mostly maintaining their lifestyles, Rismon said.
Its a struggle to keep their heads above water, he said. They are just trying to make ends meet.
Hill Countys other two committee members includes Roger Lincoln and Tony Belcourt.
Mike Zook, the director of the Hill County Farm Service Agency, said in a previous interview that his employees work for and with their neighbors in an effort to make the areas producers as successful as possible.
The people we do business with are our friends, our neighbors and they are our customers, Zook said. That is the way I want my staff to perceive them and we will do what we can to service them.
Zook also serves on the the Havre Area Chamber of Commerces agribusiness committee, which meets the second Wednesday of every month. The committee promotes existing agricultural products while searching for new opportunities in the agribusiness arena.
One of the ways the committee helps out with agricultural education is by continuing to sponsor a scholarship at Montana State University-Northern.
The MSU-Northern Ag Ambassadors program allows college students the opportunity to start recruiting high schools students who may go into the agriculture field, Zook said.
The college kids go out to the schools and talk with the high school kids, he said. We expect great things out of this program.
Sen. Greg Jergeson, D-Chinook, said he has had the pleasure of serving on the agriculture, livestock and irrigation committee for eight of the last nine sessions.
Its always been my pleasure to work with the ag people, he said.
When the legislature is in session, there are many opportunities for the producers to be seen and heard, Jergeson said. But there are limits on what the Montana Legislature can do to affect the impact on state producers, he said.
We have no influence on the commodity prices, he said.
Some of the decisions the legislature does make impacts the producers on local tax issues or how the agriculture research centers are funded, Jergeson said.
The knowledge harvested from the research stations throughout Montana directly benefits the producers, Jergeson said. The increased yields on grain and hay crops to the heavier weights in cow calf productions are directly related to the research conducted by these research stations, he said.
The areas producers also provides a lot of tax base for the local government, Jergeson said.
Main street businesses in the small- and medium-sized towns all have a stake in agriculture, Jergeson said. It is an interdependent relationship as well. Those same businesses provide the necessities the producers need. We all need each other in these small rural areas.
Learning the ways of being an agricultural producers starts in the homes of these farmers and ranchers. The farming and ranching ways are taught to the areas youth in 4-H.
Bob Brastrup, a Hill County Extension agent and 4-H leader, said the theme for 4-H is learning by doing and this presents an opportunity for youth to experiment and learn in various areas of ag production and gain valuable experiences.
It also provides an opportunity for parents, grandparents and other adults to observe the projects and their progressing, he said.
Brastrup said they have had members who have raised certified grain and this was an opportunity for the producers to try some new seed that they might not have thought about.
Both the 4-H member and his or her family learn by doing, he said.