ByTim Leeds/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
Havre is hosting a symposium next week designed to keep women in agriculture informed about current events and trends in Montana agriculture.
The fourth annual Women Stepping Forward in Agriculture is set for Tuesday and Wednesday, said Heidi Brewer of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency.
"The idea is to provide them with information that is needed," Brewer said. "It gives them a place where they can speak up and be in a forum with other women with the same interests."
She added that although the symposium is designed to help women in agriculture, everyone is welcome to attend.
Brewer said 73 people have preregistered for the event, but people are welcome to come and pay at the door.
The symposium is organized by USDA in conjunction with women's ag organizations in the state.
Brewer said the ag organizations - Montana Agri-Woman, Montana Farm Bureau Woman, Women Involved in Farm Economics and Montana CattleWomen - set the agenda for the symposium.
"They provide us with all the agenda items and provide many of the speakers," she said.
Debbie Hedstrom, a vice president of Independence Bank, said she has seen women getting more involved in ag operations.
"From the banking end, we can see that it's more of a partnership than one person," she said.
Hedstrom used to be part of the local Women in Farm Economics chapter, which she said disbanded because of a lack of interest about five years ago. She said it would be good for the area if the symposium generated interest in starting a local WIFE chapter again.
"It doesn't hurt to try," she said.
She said the symposium is a good opportunity for local ag producers.
"I think continued education is great. I don't think we can stop learning," Hedstrom said.
Mike Zook, FSA's executive director in Hill County, said the annual symposium, which began in 2001, provides a chance to learn more about the business.
"It's always best to provide as many opportunities as possible," he said. "Our business is to help these people survive."
The agenda includes presentations on current ag issues, USDA programs, the Global Positioning System and the Geographic Information System, and agricultural practices in Brazil. Local presenters include Enell Inc. owner Renelle Braaten and certified public accountant Curt Barnekoff.
The agenda also includes a tour of the Northern Agricultural Research Center at Fort Assinniboine and a social Tuesday evening.
The wine and cheese social, sponsored by WIFE, includes a showcase of products derived from agriculture organized by Montana CattleWomen and a presentation about GPS by GeoEssentials Inc. of Bozeman.
The current events section includes a presentation by Alliance for Rail Competition chair Terry Whiteside on transportation issues; by Dan McGowan of the state Department of Emergency Services on how Homeland Security laws and regulations impact ag operations; and by Mark Long of the state Department of Justice about the growth of methamphetamine labs in rural Montana.
Registration for the symposium starts at 8 a.m. Tuesday at the Duck Inn. The symposium costs $45.
For more information, call Brewer at (406) 587-6905.
On the Net: Symposium agenda: www.fsa.usda.gov/mt/04agenda.pdf