Montana Farmers Union new ATV safety simulator and display was shown at the county fair in eastern Montana in Culbertson last summer.

One of the main grassroots farm organizations in the state, Montana Farmers Union will celebrate 105 years of serving producers in 2020.

The group has had a booth at the MAGIE for as long as anyone can remember.

“We go to the MAGIE every year, and this year, we will be bringing a new updated ATV safety simulator,” said Justin Loch, MFU. The group received the unit last year, and MFU is the only group that has one in the state.

The simulator has always been popular at past MAGIE shows, so the updated one should garner a large attendance.

Montana Farmers Union took the simulator to some county fairs to start their ATV safety awareness. Loch plans to take it to other ag shows this year, as well.

“We have just started our ATV safety program, called ‘Ride To Live’. ATV safety is one of the most important safety aspects on the farm or ranch,” said Loch. “There are too many accidents and deaths due to ATVs, and we’re hoping to bring awareness to the public to prevent that from happening.”

In fact, Montana averages one ATV accident a day.

The Farmers Union’s simulator is composed of an

ATV mounted on a tilt table. They have a double booth space at the MAGIE, so there is plenty of room to run demonstrations.

Any adult or child can drive the ATV simulator.

The simulator shows the tipping points and the rollover points of a real ATV.

“We are really focusing on youth. We want youth to ride the right size of machine for their size, and to always wear a helmet,” he said.

Normally, dealerships that sell ATVs can match the size of the machine to the youth, but a lot of four-wheelers will have instructions that no one under 16 should ride it because it is too tough to handle and it goes to fast.

That is not enough information to keep kids from buying a model that does not fit them.

“Reminding kids, and even adults, to ride ATVs with safety in mind is our main goal for the demonstration,” he added.

In addition, Montana Farmers Union will have a display at the MAGIE about its programs.

“First, we want to increase our membership, but we plan to talk about some of our upcoming programs,” Loch said.

On Jan. 7 in Great Falls, MFU will sponsor a hemp processor and producer experiences workshop at the Times Square building.

 “This workshop is geared towards hemp producers and hemp processors and is at no cost,” he said.

Their second big conference of the new year will be the 2020 Montana Farmers Union Women’s Conference at Fairmont Hot Springs Feb. 21-23.

This year’s theme is ‘Celebrating Montana Women by exploring and celebrating entrepreneurship in agriculture.’

“The workshop focuses on personal and professional development,” Loch said.

There is a cost to the conference, so register with MFU.

Speakers and programs at the conference include: Sarah Calhoun, keynote speaker; Sassy Girl Media; panel discussion on woman entrepreneurs; a soap-making workshop and suicide prevention.

Loch also wants to remind producers of the upcoming producers’ “Winter Thaw Conference” in Billings, from Feb. 21-22, during the MATE show. MFU will have information about it at their booth.

“We are partnering with U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, and we will have experts talking about tips for adding profit to your ranch, and some hot button issues in beef production,” Loch said.

Loch reminded producers and others of the importance of the insignia of the original Montana Farmer’s Union and how that changed to meet producers’ needs.

The organization’s first insignia was a circle with a plow, rake and hoe at its center, symbolic tools of farmers’ trade. 

Later, the insignia changed to a triangle that displayed Farmers Union’s basics: the base was education; on one side was legislation and the other side, cooperation, with the plow, rake and hoe remaining in the middle.

Each year, Farmers Union presents the Golden Triangle Award, based on Farmer's Union symbol, to legislators that support and work on issues important to farmers and ranchers.

“That is how the Golden Triangle Award came about,” he added.

In addition, Montana Farmers Union has a new president that was elected last October. Walter Schweitzer, a rancher from Geyser, is the new president.

Schweitzer recently thanked U.S. Sen. Jon Tester of Montana for securing several Montana provisions in the appropriations package “that will benefit Montana agriculture immensely.

“In particular we are pleased to see the expansion of the WHIP program, support for hemp growers to transport hemp across state lines and support for implementation of the federal hemp program, the ELD exemption for livestock haulers and the $5 million for Rural Emergency Medical Services,” Schweitzer said. “Funding for these programs is critical to support family farms and rural communities in Montana.”

Stop at the Montana Farmers Union booth at the MAGIE, try out the ATV and see for more information.