Voices: Greg Gianforte, Matt Rosendale have abandoned rural Montana

Before the coronavirus outbreak took hold, rural Montana was struggling. The ongoing trade war was undercutting farmers’ already narrow margins, and our health care systems were struggling to meet growing demand. And then COVID-19 happened.

Now more than ever, rural Montana deserves champions who will show up and speak out for our communities. This week, Greg Gianforte and Matt Rosendale proved to be incapable of being the leaders Montana farmers and ranchers so badly need.

During the last couple weeks, the Montana Farmers Union, Northern Plains Resource Council, Montana Cattlemen Association and the United States Cattlemen Association, sponsored debates for each of the candidates running for governor and U.S. House. In both debates, every candidate in the race participated, except for Gianforte and Rosendale.

Throughout the discussion, candidates discussed water rights, country of origin labeling, and their plans to expand economic opportunity in rural Montana. On these critical issues, Gianforte and Rosendale were nowhere to be found.

By blowing off the debate, both men showcased their disregard for rural Montana and our unique challenges. Even though both will rely heavily on rural Montanans’ votes come November, Gianforte and Rosendale couldn’t be bothered to join the virtual debate and share their vision for our communities.

Montana is an agricultural state. Agriculture is our number one industry, and the farm economy helps to support hundreds of small communities. But rural Montana is hurting. Farm bankruptcies are up 800% from 2018 to 2019. Rural hospitals – and the communities they serve – are feeling the pinch. Ranchers are making less and less, while large meat packers are raking in record profits.

If Gianforte and Rosendale won’t show up for rural Montana when we need it most, they don’t deserve to represent us in office. We need leaders who will propose solutions to our many challenges, not run away from them.

Jean Lemire Dahlman was born and raised in Miles City, is a farm/ranch partner with her husband, Floyd, on their 3rd generation Montana ranch in Rosebud County near Forsyth.