Montana's Economy

Montana, a rural state, claims agriculture, mining, and the timber industry to be its founding trades and are still among its most vital. Tourism continues to increase, drawing revenue to one of the nations most beautiful states. Agriculture is strictly divided by Montanans between farms, which raise grain, and ranches, which raise livestock. Although many think of Montana as being comprised of huge ranches and roaming cattle, less than 10 percent of the population make their living from farming and ranching. Beef cattle production is the most common in Montana, with sheep providing a steady alternative. Spring and winter wheat are undoubtedly the most commonly harvested crops, with barley in close contention. Other popular crops, grown predominately in irrigation fields along the Yellowstone River, are corn, soybeans and sugar beets.

Though Montana was born of mining and prospecting camps, most of the gold, silver, and copper have been depleted. However, the state remains rich in other mineral wealth such as sapphire, coal, and oil. Although the timber industry is a lifestyle for some, early clear-cutting of forests and slow regrowth have limited the state's ability for competition in the world market. Christmas tree farms spot the northwestern part of the state and log-home manufacturers have moved Montana into the forefront of home-kit producers in the world. More log homes are shipped to Japan than remain in Montana.