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Rancher Relief Plan

Montana ranchers have not been immune to the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis. Meat packing plants across the country have been forced to shut down due to the pandemic, putting the livelihood of Montana’s ranchers on the line. The consolidation in the marketplace has tightened margins, leaving ranchers facing record profit losses as the price of meat in grocery stores inches up. To address these critical issues, Jon is releasing his bipartisan Rancher Relief Plan.

This three-part initiative aims to provide certainty for Montana producers and give consumers more access to the products that feed our nation by:

Opening new markets for Montana ranchers:

As meat processing plants shut down or reduce capacity, ranchers across Montana are in need of new markets to sell their products. 27 states, including Montana, have inspections programs for meat and poultry that are equal to federal inspection guidelines. Despite this, products processed at state Meat and Poultry Inspection (MPI) inspected facilities are not permitted for sale across state lines, cutting off critical markets for ranchers looking for additional avenues to make ends meet.

Jon’s bipartisan New Markets for State-Inspected Meat and Poultry Act allows products processed at MPI inspected facilities to be sold across state lines, freeing up interstate commerce, reducing the meat production bottleneck, and allowing Montana and its neighboring states to diversify their meat production. This means additional opportunities for ranchers to bring their cattle to market, and more products available for dinner tables across Montana.

Increasing transparency in the marketplace:

As the percent of cattle traded on the cash market drops and formula pricing becomes more common in a consolidated marketplace, Montana ranchers are facing losses. Formula and forward pricing puts producers at a disadvantage as packers reduce slaughters, curtail cash trades, and use depressed demand to formulate future contracts.

Jon’s bipartisan Spot Pricing Bill gives producers more room to negotiate prices by requiring packers to purchase 50 percent of their cattle via spot payments. This bill works to decrease the market’s dependence on packer-manipulated formula prices while increasing transparency in pricing, giving producers more opportunity to see fair returns for their product.

Giving rural America back their edge:

There’s no doubt about it—American ranchers produce the best beef in the world. When presented with Country of Origin Labeling (COOL), consumers are more likely to choose products made in the USA. But without distinct labels, imports of lesser quality get mixed in with home-grown products, dampening rural America’s competitive edge.

Jon’s bipartisan COOL resolution supports Country of Origin Labeling for beef products sold in the US. COOL gives ranchers the opportunity to show off their world-class products while giving consumers more information on the food that fuels them.

Jon is leading the charge in the efforts to create fair cattle markets for ranchers across the country. Jon demanded Attorney General Barr investigate pricing fixing in the cattle industry to determine the impetus for the glaring price irregularities in the marketplace. Additionally, after Montana’s ranchers saw the steepest decline in cattle prices in forty years, Jon called on Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to take immediate action to stabilize beef markets. And in order to reduce the processing bottleneck and get more food onto the tables of folks in need, he wrote a letter to USDA requesting a waiver for the state of Montana to allow custom exempt butchers to process meat for food banks.

Ranchers are facing more and more uncertainty in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, which can have detrimental effects on mental health. There are resources available to help.

For rancher stress:

Jon has been working tirelessly to ensure farmers and ranchers facing stress have the resources they need to manage their health in an increasingly volatile market. The Seeding Rural Resilience Act works to curb the growing rate of suicides in rural America through the creation of a farmer-facing employee training program, the production and distribution of a $3 million campaign to increase public awareness for the crisis, and the direction of the Secretary of Agriculture to work with state, local, and nongovernmental stakeholders to determine best practices to respond to and manage farm and ranch stress.

Montana State University Montana Ag Producer Stress Resource Clearinghouse has aggregated Montana’s mental health resources, specialized crisis lines, and producer-specific COVID-19 resources. For more information, click here.

For rancher relief:

Direct Aid:
USDA will make $6.7 billion in payments to livestock producers Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), including cattle, lambs, yearlings, and hogs. Program signups begin May 26, 2020, and are available through August 28, 2020. Producers will fill out a single application, and will receive a single check. To sign up, contact your local FSA office.
Application materials may be reviewed here.
Payment calculations can be viewed here.

Jon voted to secure expansions in eligibility in the Small Business Administration’s Emergency Economic Injury Grant Programs to include ag businesses, farms, and ranches with fewer than 500 employees.
More information on SBA assistance can be found here.

Food Purchase and Distribution:
Each month, USDA will purchase $100 billion of fresh fruits and vegetables, $100 million in dairy products, and $100 million in meat to distribute to food banks and non-profits in ready-to-deliver packaging.

 

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Office Contact Information

Senator Tester's Montana staff serves the state from offices in Billings, Bozeman, Butte, Great Falls, Helena, Kalispell, and Missoula. Please bring your concerns with federal agencies, academy nominations, and other situations to one of these Montana offices.

Billings

Judge Jameson Federal Building
2900 4th Ave N, Suite 201
Billings, MT 59101
Phone: (406) 252-0550
Fax: (406) 252-7768

Bozeman

Avant Courier Building
1 E Main Street, Suite 202
Bozeman, MT 59715
Phone: (406) 586-4450
Fax: (406) 586-7647

Butte

Silver Bow Center
125 W Granite, Suite 200
Butte, MT 59701
Phone: (406) 723-3277
Fax: (406) 782-4717

Great Falls

119 1st Avenue N, Suite 102
Great Falls, MT 59401
Phone: (406) 452-9585
Fax: (406) 452-9586

Helena

208 North Montana Avenue
Suite 104
Helena, MT 59601
Phone: (406) 449-5401
Fax: (406) 449-5462

Kalispell

8 Third Street E
Kalispell, MT 59901
Phone: (406) 257-3360
Fax: (406) 257-3974

Missoula

130 W Front St.
Missoula, MT 59802
Phone: (406) 728-3003
Fax: (406) 728-2193

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