Tuesday, November 29, 2022

New Study Examines Affect of Hutterite Colonies on State’s Economy


MISSOULA – Located in rural communities, Montana’s Hutterite businesses are highly self-sufficient and little known to other Montanans, yet they play a significant role in the state’s economy, supporting production, employment and income that extends beyond their own communities, according to a recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Montana and Montana State University.

“The first-of-its-kind study documents and quantifies the linkages between Hutterite businesses and the rest of the state economy,” according to Patrick Barkey, director of UM’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research (BBER).

The study found that the presence of the Hutterite Communities in Montana produces more than 2,100 stable year-round jobs and contributes over $365 million in annual spending for the state. More than 80% of the value of Hutterite production is derived from grain, hogs and eggs, with grain making up the largest portion of that value at 39%, with 29% provided by hogs and 13% by eggs, Barkey said. Additionally, the Hutterite Communities generate significant cash receipts from dairy (9 percent) and cattle (8 percent).

BBER conducted the study in partnership with the Montana State University Department of Agricultural Economics and Economics, the MSU College of Agriculture and MSU Extension. It was commissioned by Church, Harris, Johnson and Williams, P.C., with data from the participating Communities compiled by Anderson ZurMuehlen. The study focused on the Lehrerleut Branch of the Hutterite Communities, with the Communities represented in the study owning and operating multiple farming operations.

“The substantial linkages that exist between the Hutterite Communities’ agricultural and other operations and the rest of the state economy ultimately support jobs and income in non-Hutterite and non-agricultural sectors of the economy, resulting in a larger economic pie for all Montanans to share,” Barkey said.

While a large portion of these economic contributions are associated with the Communities themselves, non-Community businesses, workers and households reap considerable economic gains as well, he said.

The supply of high-quality data allowed researchers to assess the Hutterite Communities’ contribution to agricultural production in Montana, according to George Haynes, a professor of agricultural economics and extension specialist at MSU. Based on that data, MSU Extension economics specialist Joel Schumacher’s analysis found that Hutterite communities produce 90 percent of hogs, 95 percent of eggs, 34 percent of dairy, 16 percent of poultry and 5 percent of grain produced in Montana.

“The study highlights the importance of the Hutterite Communities in diversifying Montana’s agricultural production,” Haynes said. “They implement cutting-edge technologies to help promote efficiency and reduce labor requirements in their operations, allowing them to venture into under-developed markets in the state.”

Residing primarily in the north-central part of the state, with a scattering of operations in the south-central region, Hutterites have had an important presence in Montana for more than 100 years. With 53 communities and more than 5,000 members in the state, they are second in number only to South Dakota among U.S. states, Barkey said.

Montana’s Hutterite Communities have a somewhat younger population than the rest of the state. Each Community operates as a religious corporation where the members live a communal lifestyle forgoing ownership of personal assets. Other notable aspects of Hutterite Communities include a high degree of self-sufficiency, and, in some cases, a diversification into other enterprises.

“We saw the need to obtain an objective understanding and quantification of the Hutterite Communities’ economic contributions to their communities and the state,” said Ron Nelson of Church, Harris, Johnson and Williams, P.C.

To view the full study findings, visit the Bureau of Business and Economic Research website at http://www.bber.umt.edu/pubs/econ/hutteriteEconContributions2019.pdf .

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I am wondering if they studied the effect of them not paying income tax? Also because of that they have extra money to pay more for land than the average person can.


How about the fact that they state “unemployed” on their medical forms which leads me to believe they are in Medicaid. No work comp paid. No payroll taxes. Since a huge portion of their income is cash. I’m sure it is not deposited or claimed as income. Not sure if their religion makes them a nonprofit. Interesting that their colony schools are public and employ a certified teacher . I would love to see the court case tested if the boys ever wanted to play sports and needed to be bused


You should go visit a Hutterite community than you would find that it’s almost impossible to be paid what they earn in cash for the better part most of their business is direct deposited into their account. Other wise they would be audited in a flash. You must think the government is stupid and not notice.


VO & BAO: Before you suggest what Hutterites do or don’t do based on your ignorance, I suggest you do some research. They pay workers comp and income tax plus most Hutterite communities are the highest tax payers in their respective counties. Another important fact that this study revealed, Hutterites produce a measly 5% of the grain in MT. So there goes the idea that they are buying up all the real estate.

Bad deal

They do not pay workman’s comp because they don’t have to. Each Hoot is considered an owner or self employed. as an owner they are not required to pay work comp. on them selves Also they pay them selves a minimal wage so they can claim low income and in return makes them eligible for Medicare food stamps etc. The Hoots work the system more than any organization in the state. Montana needs to put a cap on number of colonies allowed like some other states do. Also I think that they should not be allowed to compete with business in the state because of unfair business practices. If they pay all the taxes that normal business do work comp, pay roll taxes, and pay at least the state required min wage then I would be ok with it but they don’t. So there for they should not be able to compete in construction, or local farming industries, electricians etc. and should not be able to file as low income, and receive state and federal monies. every time a colony splits and starts another colony all colonies involved should have to file as a corporation and all be liable for the taxes owed.


This is a hutterite frm Alberta here writing that you ppl are crazy!!! With out hutterites Montana won’t be as thriving with it’s economy as it dose now like hell we feed the world.. . Alberta’s quarter income comes frm hutterites.


Why do you think we don’t pay tex? R u for real. I love to have you pay just 1/3 of our tex. Read up on that again.


It might help your “we pay texes” argument if you at least knew how to spell it.

Bad deal

I would like to read up on how many state and fed dollars the hoots recurve annually and why. And how many tax breaks they get for a religious organization and how many family farms have been lost to the hoots for they pay more per acre than a normal Montana farmer can pay because the same acer can not provide enough earning to pay for its self. How many acres the hoots have in Hemp fields now?


VO how can you say they are income tax exempt. They pay as much income tax as the next guy and are audited just like every other person or businesses.

Joe thompson

This does seem to be a slanted review. Because they are so self sufficient a colony doesn’t contribute to the local economy much. A lot of their income is cash ; declared ? They are public schools and as such tax supported, yet they teach religion and don’t allow neighboring kids to attend. Public?
Their students drop out of school after the eighth grade and as such don’t count as high school dropouts. Imagine the percentage of glacier county dropouts if the colonies were counted , also it is not fair to the colony kids. They are people just like everyone else, good ones and bad ones.
It used to be that even though the colony was worth a fortune the individual’s did qualify for Medicaid and used it. The last legislature changed that. Colonies are great neighbors and more than willing to lend a hand, but will not serve on a jury, nor the military service. When you write your article make sure you tell the whole story.


From the outside looking in all of the above seems right…. Be sure to not forget there’s more to it than what one perceives looking from the outside in…


They are on Medicaid and qualify for food subsidies. I’d like to see what Montana pays for the 5000 Hutterites.

Elizabeth Woods

May I preface this by stating that we have always had good relationships with the colonies around us, however I take issue with this article. I think the better comparison would be what would the local economy, schools, businesses, and hospitals look like if the Hutterite colonies were replaced with personal income tax paying, K-12 public school attending, local business supporting individual farmers and ranchers? Right now the prices they can afford to pay for land (because they live communally, with just basic necessities, and do not need to pay a living wage to employees, just room & board & a small monthly allowance) runs individual family farms out of the real estate market. What is the quantifiable economic cost of that chill to private economic development? The article seems to be an attempt to change public opinion of Hutterite colonies which I suspect was probably commissioned either by the colonies or a law firm which regularly represents Hutterite colonies.

Ryan Van Dessel

This is a very poorly done study, feels like something a government agency would do to promote the agenda. Hutterites do very little to help there local community, I have never seen one help a nieghbor. They will work and get paid by a nieghbor but not just help out of the kindness of there heart. They drive land prices up to where it’s all but impossible to compete with them, while get breaks on health care and such. We don’t need to promote them, they are taking over most farming communities as it is.


Hutterites dont even own 1% of farm land in Montana. how many acres does A.P.R own and much do they contribute to the state or all these other non profits. Get your facts strait. The average colony has 20 to 25 familys. How manny acres is that per family? Who else contributes that much to the state per acre? How many small schools would be closed if it wont be for Hutterites and what would that do to your TAXES.

Chris Prue

QUESTION ??? What small schools are you talking about, do you mean the small schools they have for there own children that are strictly built for the colony to attend?? Are you talking about the small schools that we taxpayers support by giving each one of them our own teachers but can NOT send our children there? Please explain. As far as small community goes, Don,t even get me started, I would have to write a book on how they are KILLING the small community’s. When is the last time you seen a hutterite shop at Albertsons, besides the times they are there to pick up outdated donuts to feed the pigs? They do not buy appliances from our local stores. They do not purchase fuel from our local gas stations. I run an ag service department and every time small farms get sold to hutterites ,I lose business and employ fewer people. Maybe these cases are not everywhere but it is where I am from. Church, Harris, Johnson and Williams, P.C. will tell you what you want to hear. Just pay them more money. Come to think of it, there is someone that is benifitting from the hutterites. Guess they are not all bad.

Butch Kallem

This was a totally worthless and biased study. If it were any good they would have noted what income that displaced if they weren’t here. That land would be farmed by tax paying and community contributing families. Even when you break down the numbers they present as money invested yearly by each family you see it is less than $30,000 a year per family.
And if your in retail you have to deal with these folks when they come into your stores. They steal more often than purchase. Ever wonder why the hospital in Billings finally had to go to plastic plants outside?
This biased study leave out lots of details. Like why do they own all the chicken production in Montana? Egg production? and now almost all of the hog production? What happened to the farmers we use to have? Hard to compete against 30% tax cuts and low labor costs.
I know as I have to compete against them and lose not only the bids but the plans I have drawn up.


They always use the taxes they pay as an excuse. What they leave out is the fact that they are the only ones who can afford to build the multi million dollar hog, chicken and dairy operations, which are taxed. However they then use their free labor force who qualify for full government benefits or avoid taxes (Medicade, Work Comp, Payroll Taxes, Union Dues Etc.) to operate those operations. Most farmers in Montana would love to diversify as the Colonies have, but the same advantages are not afforded them.

Calvin Christensen

I have watched and read and learned a great deal about the colonies over the years. I have seen and learned that there is other religious organizations that have started in Montana and are following a similar plan. I know at least one church organization, that, although a different name, is the largest landowner in at least two counties in Montana. They are also the largest cow calf operation in the USA and perhaps the world. They do live among us and from my observation they are fully a part of our communities. Our Government has made laws and allowed policy that make, what the communal organizations do, legal. I do strongly feel that any and all 18 year olds must fully comply with registering for the draft and if they are religious objectors, they can serve in a service organization. It is my opinion and belief that Every Young person has an obligation to serve at least two years for our Country.
I applaud the Northern Ag Network for sharing this because we learn and grow together as we air the concerns and bring out truth. I am quite sure that some communal groups, have more ethical leaders and there is most likely much difference in the accountability and integrity of each communal entity.

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