Gianforte Picks Federal Agency Director as Agriculture Boss

Former state lawmaker Mike Foster currently directs the federal Farm Service Agency in Montana, will oversee state's largest industry

By Associated Press

BILLINGS — Governor-elect Greg Gianforte on Wednesday said he has picked a former state lawmaker who now directs the federal Farm Service Agency in Montana to serve as the next director of the state Department of Agriculture.

Mike Foster, a Townsend native, is the first agency head to be named by the incoming Republican governor. In 2018, Foster was appointed by the administration of President Donald Trump as state executive director of the Montana USDA Farm Service Agency. The agency assists Montana farmers and ranchers with farm loans, disaster relief and conservation work.

Agriculture has historically been Montana’s biggest industry, with about 27,000 farms and ranches on almost 60 million acres. Combined, those operations produced livestock and crops valued at about $3 billion in 2017, the most recent year available, according to the National Agriculture Statistics Service.

Gianforte said in a statement that Foster understands the challenges facing agriculture producers and had shown himself committed to meeting their needs.

“Montana farmers and ranchers work hard to feed the world and I’m excited to be a strong voice for these Montanans,” Foster said.

Foster is a former high school teacher and lobbyist who served eight years in the Montana Legislature in the 1990s, including as majority whip in the Senate, and as chief policy adviser to former Gov. Judy Martz.

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