Montana Department of Agriculture logo

To protect producers and consumers, and to enhance and develop agriculture and allied industries.

Montana Department of Agriculture Mission

Programs & Background

The Montana Department of Agriculture (MDA) operates more than 30 programs, many funded entirely through user fees. These include regulatory programs that protect producers, consumers and the environment, as well as development and marketing programs to foster growth in Montana agriculture.

The Director's Office also serves as an advocate for Montana agriculture in national and international forums and works to make the department's programs accessible to the public. We encourage you to explore this site to learn more about what MDA offers (the Topics page is a great place to get started), or contact the department for more information.

 

Ben Thomas is the Director of the Montana Department of Agriculture.

Prior to joining the department, Ben served as the Deputy Under Secretary for the Marketing and Regulatory Programs Mission Area at the U.S. Department of Agriculture where he helped oversee the Agricultural Marketing Service, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, and the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration. Prior to that, he served as the Chief of Staff for the Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Mission Area, which encompasses the Farm Service Agency, Foreign Agricultural Service, and Risk Management Agency. In that role, he oversaw the department's international activities and worked to implement provisions of the 2014 Farm Bill.

Prior to joining USDA, Ben served as Legislative Assistant and Counsel to Senators Max Baucus and John Walsh, helping write and implement the 2014 Farm Bill. He also provided counsel on trade, telecommunications, nutrition, the environment, rural development, and more. Prior to his Senate experience, Ben served in various policy positions at the Farm Service Agency and Risk Management Agency, and as a Law Clerk to the Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission.

Ben graduated from Austin College in Sherman, Texas with a Bachelor of Arts degree. He received his Juris Doctor from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, and his LL.M in Agricultural and Food Law from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.

Ben was raised on a farm near Morton, Texas, where his family still farms.

Our Divisions

The Montana Department of Agriculture operates more than 30 programs, many funded entirely through user fees. These include regulatory programs that protect producers, consumers and the environment, as well as development and marketing programs to foster growth in Montana agriculture. The Director's Office also serves as an advocate for Montana agriculture in national and international forums and works to make the department's programs accessible to the public.
  • Agricultural Development Division
    The Agricultural Development Division is responsible for administering programs that promote and enhance Montana agriculture. Within the division are four bureaus: the Rural Development Bureau, the Wheat and Barley Bureau, the Agricultural Marketing and Business Development Bureau, and the Montana State Grain Laboratory Bureau.

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  • Agricultural Sciences Division
    The Agricultural Sciences Division provides agricultural, public and environmental services and protection through administration of the Montana laws and rules. Cooperative agreements with the USDA, Food and Drug Administration and Environmental Protection Agency provide services and jurisdiction in areas of interstate and international movement of plant materials, produce and feed; enforcement of FDA rules to prevent transmission of BSE disease in cattle; and the regulation of pesticide sales, use and production in Montana.

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  • Central Services Division
    The Central Services Division provides accounting, budgeting, computer programming, fiscal management, human resources, payroll and benefits, public information, purchasing, property control, records management, systems analysis, training, website administration and legal support to all programs within the department.

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