Blackfoot Valley Dispatch - The Blackfoot Valley's News Source Since 1980

By Riger Dey
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Gianforte wraps 56 county tour with visit to Hi Country

 

November 18, 2021

Photos courtesy Jack O'Brien - Gianforte Deputy Press Secretary

Governor Greg Gianforte speaks with Hi Country owner Travis Byerly and Chief Operating Officer Steve Fehrs during a tour of the snack food manufacturer Nov. 9.

Hi Country Snack Foods marked the final stop on Gov. Greg Gianforte's tour of all 56 counties in Montana.

The visit give the governor the chance to tour the production lines of Lincoln's best-known "Made-in-Montana" products with Hi Country owner Travis Byerly and Chief Operations Officer Steve Fehrs. The visit also highlighted Gianforte's efforts to tout the importance of Montana's value-added agriculture products and local supply chains.

"This is impressive," Gianforte told KPAX TV during his visit. "This is another example of great value-added Montana ag - taking Montana beef and turning it into delicious jerky and other products."

Value-added Montana Agricultural products have been a focus of the governor for several months, and the visit came just five days after Gianforte launched a $7.5 million Agriculture Infrastructure Grant Program to invest in Montana's agricultural products. Earlier this year in June, the Montana Department of Agriculture invested CARES Act coronavirus relief funds to grow the states meat-packing capacity, which could benefit Montana businesses like Hi Country in the long run.

When he bought the business in 2019, Byerly began moving Hi Country away from imported beef and back to American beef, working with company out of Idaho to source beef from the Pacific northwest, primarily from Idaho and Montana. He told KPAX the move to American beef, completed just before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, served them well.

"If we relied on just imported beef, a lot of companies that were quite a bit larger than us weren't able to get supply and either had to close their doors for a short period of time or lay off a considerable amount of workers because they didn't have any raw material to manufacture," he told the news station.

Hi Country also stopped outsourcing spice and seasoning production after Byerly took over ownership and recently expanded their production facilities to accommodate improvements to their production of seasonings.

Gianforte kicked off his 56-county tour May 11 with a visit to Hamilton in Ravalli County, where he signed the ConnectMT Act into law, supplying $275 million in federal funds to expand broadband access across Montana.

Photos courtesy Jack O'Brien - Gianforte Deputy Press Secretary

According to a press release from the governor's office that marked the completion of the tour, since May Gianforte talked with Montanans across the state about issues ranging from the economy, agriculture and forest management, to the COVID-19 pandemic and tribal issues.

"Getting out of Helena and into our communities to visit with Montanans is my favorite part of my job, but also the most important part," Gov. Gianforte said. "Talking with folks in every corner of the state and learning firsthand about the challenges they face and the successes they enjoy help me do my job better. As we continue leading the Montana comeback, I'll keep working in our communities to make Montana an even better place to live, work, and raise a family."

 

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