Catalyzing Increased Agricultural Sales through a Common Understanding of Montana's New Food Modernization Law

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2016: $22,332.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2017
Grant Recipient: Alternative Energy Resources Organization
Region: Western
State: Montana
Principal Investigator:

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: barley, canola, corn, flax, millet, oats, potatoes, wheat
  • Fruits: apples, apricots, berries (other), berries (blueberries), cherries, berries (cranberries), melons, peaches, pears, plums, berries (strawberries)
  • Vegetables: sweet potatoes, artichokes, asparagus, beans, beets, broccoli, cabbages, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucurbits, eggplant, garlic, greens (leafy), leeks, lentils, onions, parsnips, peas (culinary), peppers, radishes (culinary), rutabagas, sweet corn, tomatoes, turnips, brussel sprouts
  • Additional Plants: herbs


  • Crop Production: food product quality/safety
  • Education and Training: technical assistance, farmer to farmer, mentoring, networking, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: community-supported agriculture, marketing management, e-commerce, labor/employment, value added
  • Sustainable Communities: leadership development, local and regional food systems, new business opportunities, partnerships, public participation, public policy, urban agriculture, employment opportunities, social networks

    Proposal abstract:

    Montana’s new Food Modernization law offers an unprecedented opportunity to encourage value-added entrepreneurship in Montana, paving the way for hundreds of new and existing value-added food businesses. Market demand for Montana homegrown produce and food products continues to rise. However, Montana food producers, would-be entrepreneurs, and the many professionals who support them all agree that confusion and inconsistency about food safety regulations pose daunting barriers to entry. The need for “education, education, education” was a dominant theme of public comments from over 100 stakeholders during this 2015 Montana Legislative Session. This leadership education program will inform agricultural professionals, county and state employees, extension, and community leaders about the new cottage food law, a value-added opportunity for our local sustainable agriculture growers.

    AERO is partnering with the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services and Montana Food and Agriculture Development Network’s four development centers to hold four regional workshops across the state, and develop a peer-to-peer online learning network to ensure this new law is accessible as a value-added income source for Montana producers and food-businesses.

    This education and training project will develop the leadership and networking necessary for workshop participants to return to their communities as a resource to help to educate and train Montana producers and entrepreneurs who want to expand or start a food-business. This project will ensure that Montana’s economy benefits fully from the new value-added entrepreneurial opportunities provided by this new food modernization law.

    Project objectives from proposal:

     Month 1-4

    Develop & Produce fact sheets: Develop content to communicate the provisions of HB 478, clear up confusion, and harmonize past inconsistencies in implementation of food safety regulations. Address concerns of stakeholder groups to establish a common understanding and unified voice. Produce materials for distribution at the workshop and online.

    Design workshops: Develop interactive one-day workshop curriculum to convey information, build bridges between stakeholders, and foster value-added economic development for producers. Provide hands-on integrative support for food businesses.

    Develop online platform: Design and build website for workshop attendees to connect and continue learning; provide ongoing interactive forum for stakeholders and downloadable fact sheets. Enable moderator to highlight key developments and increase clarity.

    Promote workshops & forum: Develop and disseminate workshop announcements. Attract 30 registrants for each workshop; invite constituents to ensure broad and inclusive participation.

    Deliver workshops: deliver five one-day regional workshops co-hosted by Montana’s Food and Agriculture Business Development Centers. Take notes. Gather workshop evaluation feedback.

    Write workshop report: Analyze workshop discussion notes and attendee feedback. Identify progress and remaining needs to achieve common understanding across stakeholders.

    Month 4-9

    Launch and promote online forum: Encourage all stakeholder groups to use the online forum to follow-up on unresolved issues. Provide workshop findings online.

    Monitor and support online activity: Use usage statistics and website analytics to monitor usage of online content and tools. Facilitate productive online discussion.

    Month 9

    Write online forum report: Analyze usage statistics. Assess effectiveness of online forum, and make any recommendations about future needs.

    Design survey: Develop online survey to gather feedback from participants. Questions reflect both project benefits and unresolved issues.

    Promote entrepreneurial successes with personal stories: Throughout the year, generate 10 statewide feature stories about producers employing the law to create new enterprises or existing businesses to improve their markets and sales around the state.

    Month 10

    Gather survey data: Post the survey link on the website and send email reminders to participants. Make phone calls to participants.

    Month 11

    Write final report: Analyze project data. Report total numbers of participants and numbers of new/expanded enterprises. Document the extent to which information about HB 478 has been disseminated to entrepreneurs & the professionals who support them. Identify intended and unintended outcomes & evaluate gaps. Assess the status of implementation of HB 478 & whether a common understanding has been achieved. Identify future needs; make recommendations as needed.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.