The Montana Ag Summit kicked off on Thursday at the Montana ExpoPark in Great Falls with a tribute to former U.S. Senator Conrad Burns.
Burns passed away on April 28, 2016, at the age of 81.
U.S. Senator Steve Daines opened the ceremony by announcing the creation of the Conrad Burns Ag Technology Award, to be given every year at the Ag Summit.
U.S. Senator Pat Roberts, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee and Burns’ friend and former colleague, also spoke about his memories of Burns.
Senator Roberts invited Burns’ wife Phyllis to the podium, where she spoke and took a picture with award winner Taylor Brown.
Brown owns the Northern Broadcasting System, which was started by Burns and sold to Brown when the Burns’ moved to D.C.
Phyllis said Brown is the perfect first recipient, and is like family.
She said both she and Burns grew up on farms and ranches. She added that the creation of the award to honor those helping to advance technology in the field of agriculture means a lot to her and her children.
“These people are salt of the earth,” said Phyllis. “They supported us while Conrad was in the senate. It’s a wonderful thing. I thought they were giving Conrad an award, I didn’t realize it was going to be an on-going award that they were giving in his name and I think he would love that, and its very special to us as a family.”
Of her husband, and his role in agriculture, she said, “He fought for the big thing, the big thing was water: [he said] we have to keep our water, we can’t let anyone take our water away from us and he fought for rights and better markets. He had a lot of insight. He knew being on the communications committee was going to benefit agriculture immensely and it has, that they can do business all over the world from their farm so it means an awful lot that this group would honor him in that way.”
She hopes Montanans will recognize the importance of the industry to the state.
“I just want people to realize how important agriculture is to the state of Montana. You know, Conrad always said he had a professor that taught him about soil, and he said he had the idea that wherever people can’t grow their own food there’s always war because there’s unrest and people can control them but how lucky we are in this country to be free and to grow what we want and all the freedoms we take for granted. And the farmers work hard – from morning til night – and a lot of people don’t realize the hours and the time they put in. So this is a special group of people that Montana should be thankful for.”