2019 Legislative Report
Strengthening social, economic, and environmental well-being across generations, across Montana.
94 MSU Extension agents and 26 subject matter experts serving local needs in 56 counties and 7 reservations with 1 mission: to improve the lives of Montana citizens by providing unbiased, research-based education and information that integrates learning, discovery and engagement to strengthen the social, economic and environmental well-being of individuals, families and communities.
Extension stories, across generations, across Montana.
- MSU Extension in Ravalli County has partnered with teams of MSU College of Nursing students from the Missoula campus to encourage residents to increase their physical activity. The teams have created community walking maps for Hamilton and Stevensville, and soon Darby. They created a May/June health incentive program called Bike, Walk, Roll and Win, and another incentive program called WINter Wellness. Local foundations and businesses have donated over $2,000 in prizes to encourage participants. In the summer, 74 participants in Hamilton logged 1,221 miles collectively. Participants reported significantly improved balance, stamina and mental health.
- In Valley County, risk from narrowleaf hawksbeard infestation prompted MSU Extension agent Shelley Mills to become a leading expert in management strategies. Following her workshops, 48 participants completed surveys indicating they were managing 109,350 cropland acres (of 189,900) they owned or managed. They estimated that without the management techniques taught by Extension they would have experienced an estimated loss of $63/acre, representing a total potential loss of revenue to hawksbeard of more than $6.1 million. For her effort, Mills was recognized by the National Association of County Agricultural Agents as an Excellence in Crop Production Award winner.
- MSU Extension agent Jennifer Anderson helped in founding the Community Foundation of Northern Rosebud County in 2008 to help fund local projects. Since then, the foundation has accumulated an endowment of more than $500,000, and more than $125,000 has been reinvested back into community projects including a hospital helipad upgrade, children’s swim lessons, and technology for use in public school classrooms.
- Stephanie Davison with the Montana 4-H Center for Youth Development and a team of partners from MSU Extension, ILX Lightwave and the Pretty Eagle Catholic Academy in St. Xavier have provided advanced STEM education opportunities for youth in grades 5-8. The students have used computer-aided design software to design and build doghouses for the resident dog, a shed for the football team’s gear and race cars. They have worked with staff to map weeds and plan to build a pedestrian bridge at Chief Plenty Coups State Park. The team is funded thorough a Children, Youth, Families at Risk (CYFAR) grant from USDA-NIFA.
Extension impacts, across generations, across Montana.
- More than 3,500 4-H leaders provide volunteer hours in excess of $2 million while teaching and mentoring youth through 4-H programs. 75% of youth who participate in 4-H leadership programs also have leadership roles in school, church and other community organizations.
- 19,000 Montana youth participate annually in 4-H clubs, afterschool programs, camps and other activities to learn life skills such as public speaking, critical thinking, goal setting, planning and organizing; and complete over 40,000 science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) projects in fields such as robotics, bioscience, livestock, food and nutrition, plant sciences and engineering.
- Extension economics education helps Montana families budget, plan for the future and make informed financial decisions. Annually, around 2,500 Montanans participate in Solid Finances and estate planning classes.
- Mental health concerns consistently rank in the top three in local, county and state health assessments. To address the need for more resources, MSU Extension partners with schools and other community organizations to provide or support programming in mental health literacy and suicide prevention. These include Mental Health First Aid, Youth Aware of Mental Health (YAM), Thrive (an online depression intervention study), and Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) suicide prevention.
- Montana has an estimated 118,000 unpaid caregivers providing 110 million hours of care to loved ones at a value of $1.4 billion (based on $12.97/hour). MSU Extension’s Powerful Tools for Caregivers program provides support for family caregivers who have increased rates of depression and anxiety, and vulnerability to health problems.
- Extension works extensively to support horticulture needs for lawns and gardens. Annually, nearly 700 Master Gardeners provide 12,000 volunteer hours managing community gardens and vegetation in boulevards and parks; providing education at farmer’s markets; creating school gardens, etc. at a value to local communities of more than $230,000 in services.
- In addition to helping grow food, MSU Extension improves access to healthy food and nutrition education. Extension administers Montana’s Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed). These programs reach over 8,000 youth and adults annually with programs in food safety and preservation, planning menus and healthy shopping, improving knife skills, and more as needed.
- Family forest owners own and manage one-fifth of Montana’s 25 million acres of forested land, and participants of Extension Forestry Stewardship programs manage 1.2 million family-owned acres. The Forest Stewardship workshops produce forest owners who have increased knowledge of forest ecology and a management plan to guide them in sustainably managing forest acres for health, wildlife, fire resilience, range, recreation and other uses.
- As local community leaders, MSU Extension agents often partner with others to build and grow community foundations. They provide workshops on grant writing and fundraising, increasing leadership abilities, improving relationships and engaging community members, and more.
- Urban and rural communities need leaders to manage shrinking or growing populations, changing resources and shifting economies. MSU Extension’s Local Government Center offers 120+ affordable training opportunities to more than 6,000 local government officials who manage nearly $2 billion and 11,000 employees.
- The Regional Pulse Crop Diagnostic Laboratory started by MSU Extension Plant Pathology Specialist Mary Burrows is the only laboratory exclusively dedicated to pulse crop pathogen diagnostics. The lab’s goal is to increase pulse crop pathology by reducing pathogen-related decline in yield through rigorous testing of seed lots. For pulse acres to continue to increase, pest management is critical, as pulse crops are susceptible to a lot of diseases.
- Montana’s agricultural economy has been transformed in the past decade to include a significant increase in pulse crop acreage. Adding pulse crops into rotation can help improve soil health while diversifying the market and increasing the bottom line. Education, outreach and research by MSU Extension and the Montana Ag Experiment Station has contributed to more than doubling pulse acreage, making Montana the nation’s top pulse producing state, while continuing to rank third for wheat production
- During the 2017 drought in some counties, as much as 30% of forage was determined to be toxic. Extension outreach and education helps increase the number of producers doing soil, water and forage testing, and helps with solutions to balance rations and manage herds to reduce impacts, including livestock death, and increase profitability.
- During emergencies, Extension faculty who live and work across the state often take leadership roles, doing whatever needs to be done. Summer of 2017 brought one of the worst droughts in Montana history, followed by a fire season that damaged nearly two-thirds of the state’s wild and agricultural land. Agents served as Task Force Liaisons for FEMA management teams, organized food and supply drives, moved cattle and delivered emergency supplies.