Tester Speaks on Senate Floor About Harmful Tariffs, Confronts DC Bureaucrat for Dismissing Trade War
Senator: ‘I'll always stick up for farmers and ranchers when Washington takes them for granted'
(U.S. Senate)-U.S. Senator Jon Tester today took to the Senate floor to slam harmful tariffs that are hurting Montana producers and confront a top trade official for characterizing the economic uncertainty of a trade war as a "rounding error."
After the Administration this week announced $12 billion in emergency payments to producers, Tester questioned the Administration's long-term game plan.
"I have never met a farmer who wants to receive their paycheck from the government," Tester said. "They want to earn that paycheck fairly, from the free market."
Tester noted the $12 billion in payments won't help farmers and ranchers gain access to international markets.
"Farmers and ranchers want to raise their products and sell them to their customers-both here at home and in markets across the world," added Tester. "They don't want to collect cash payments from the government. That is not why they got into this business. These dollars are being used as a Band-Aid to clog the bleeding that is felt by American farmers and ranchers as a direct result of Washington's trade policies."
Tester also criticized White House Trade Adviser Peter Navarro, who recently called the financial impacts of tariffs a "rounding error." His comments come in direct contradiction of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which reports tariffs on agriculture products will threaten $20 million in Montana exports and negatively affect 140,000 jobs.
Tester did not mince words in his response, holding Navarro accountable to Montana farmers and ranchers who are feeling the economic pinch of the Administration's escalating trade war.
"Your statement is inaccurate, insulting and dismissive of rural America, and it underscores Washington's persistent misunderstanding of its people," Tester said. "If Mr. Navarro truly believes his comments to be true, he has a lot more to learn about what is going on across the country. I'm willing to bet hasn't been to a farm, a ranch, a stockyard, or a grain elevator recently. I'm quite sure he hasn't picked rock in northcentral Montana."
Tester recently met with Montana farmers, ranchers, and small business owners to discuss the real impacts of the trade war. He relayed the message he is hearing from Montana producers directly to Navarro.
"Producers across my state consistently tell me that the uncertainty from these trade policies is absolutely hurting their pocketbooks and keeping them up at night," Tester added in a letter to Navarro. "Farmers and ranchers are used to dealing with uncertainty every day; they don't need the government making it worse. I strongly urge you to leave the swamp of Washington to meet in person with agriculture producers who raise and grow and process the food that feeds our nation so you can understand why your ‘rounding error' comments are so out-of-touch."
Earlier this month Tester voted for legislation to give Congress a role in imposing tariffs.
Tester helped pass a Farm Bill through the Senate last month that protects crop insurance and the other safety nets that farmers and ranchers rely on during times of low commodity prices.
Tester's letter to Navarro is available HERE.