By John Brewer, President/CEO

To those farmers, ranchers, suppliers and all who support the agriculture industry in our area: THANK YOU!

In Montana it feels that we are all no more than “one degree of separation” in Montana’s number one industry: agriculture. By “one degree” I mean that you are either directly employed in agriculture, have a close family member or friend in the industry, your business benefits from the industry, or you eat food.

If you would like to get closer to the industry to impact advocacy, make new business contacts and connect with leaders, I would invite you to join on of the Billings Chamber of Commerce’s largest and most active groups, the Ag Committee. The group meets the first Friday of each month from 7-8 a.m. under the chairmanship of Mike Phillips, Little Horn State Bank.

The focus of the Chamber’s ag work is: convene ag industry leaders and influencers to inform and educate our membership and community of the value of agriculture; advocate for issues related to agriculture; and promote the Chamber’s ag-focused events.

What does this all mean? Take a moment to check out all of the great work this group is doing on a regular basis through their four identified objectives:

OBJECTIVE 1: CONVENE leaders and influencers.

·       Monthly Ag Committee–Convene leaders and influencers in the ag industry to receive meaningful information and network;

OBJECTIVE 2: INFORM and educate the membership/community of the value of ag

·       Integrate ag messaging in Chamber’s programs and Networks, including Leadership Billings and NextGEN;

·       Communicate the value of ag to the broader Chamber audience via all communications channels;

  • Respond to opportunities to support ag during crisis periods, or general periods of opportunity (fire season, rail transportation concerns, trade wars, etc.);
  • Connect leisure travelers to our ag experiences and ag-based businesses via Visit Billings and Visit Southeast Montana promotion (web site, visitor guides, social media, familiarization tours, national media, etc.);

OBJECTIVE 3: ADVOCATE for issues related to agriculture

  • Provide input on ag policy and issues as Chamber’s “Public Policy Guide” is updated;
  • Testify and contact Legislators when personal engagement is needed.
  • Engage with local elected representatives and candidates for office: County Commissioners, City Council, Mayor, Federal Delegation and their field representatives on ag policies as defined in the Chamber’s Public Policy Guide.

OBJECTIVE 4: PROMOTE THE Chamber’s ag-focused events. 

·      Support Annual Ag Celebration & Banquet (January): Annual event to celebrate farmers, ranchers, producers, and support businesses;

·      Ag Excellence Award (January): Celebrate an individual who has made a lifetime impact on the industry;

·      ACTION: Ag Tour (June): regional tour of agri-business and operations to inform and make connections;

  • ACTION: Engage with area youth through pancake breakfasts throughout the year;

We should appreciate those in the ag industry every day. However, we are asking you to take it to the next level this week and CELEBRATE those in agriculture.  Our regional economy is dependent on them!