Havre Daily News: Tester talks government shutdown, beef imports, foreign aid

by Patrick Johnston

Sen. Jon Tester discussed a number of ongoing issues in the Senate during a rural press call Thursday, including beef imports, fentanyl, foreign aid and the possibility of a government shutdown on the horizon.

Thursday afternoon the Senate passed a short-term bill to prevent the shutdown but conflicts over funding persist between Democrats and Republicans as the fight continues to prevent a long-term funding bill for the government.

Thursday morning Tester said a shutdown would hurt everyone, lower national security and embolden the U.S.’s enemies.

Tester is a candidate for re-election, unopposed at the moment in the Democratic primary but with Republican candidates Brad Johnson, Thomas Madigan, Jeremy Mygland, Tim Sheehy and Charles Walking Child declaring as candidates in the Republican primary.

In his press call, Tester also talked about a recent decision by the Joe Biden administration to reverse a decade-old prohibition on Paraguayan beef imports, which he aims to reverse with the help of fellow farmer Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D.

He said Paraguay has a history of raising beef with lax health and safety standards, and the county’s history of hoof-in-mouth disease makes this move unjustifiable.

He said he doesn’t think the administration actually wants Paraguayan beef in the U.S. but is trying to become a closer ally with the country, partially because China is increasingly trying to gain influence in the region.

This is an understandable goal on the part of the U.S., he said, but the safety of Montana’s herds and the quality of the U.S. food should not be a bargaining tool in that effort.

As for more domestic issues with meat, Tester said, lobbyists for the meat packing industry are increasingly trying to further weaken the Packers and Stockyards Act, which is supposed to prevent anti-competitive practices in the industry.

He said four companies control the vast majority of meat packing in the U.S. and are using their increasingly monopolistic influences to hurt both producers and consumers to increase profits, and he and his colleagues are going to continue fighting that.

Tester also talked about a supplemental defense bill that recently passed the Senate but is held up in the house, one that includes aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, as well as his FEND Off Fentanyl Act, which would impose sanctions on countries contributing to the U.S. fentanyl crisis, mainly China, and declare the crisis a national emergency.

He said the bipartisan bill addressing the border crisis, which was killed by Congressional Republicans earlier this month, would have helped give the border patrol more resources to detect it coming over the border, and it’s frustrating that some Republicans are now saying the country isn’t doing enough to address the crisis.

He also said Native American reservations need more law enforcement to deal with the problem.

Tester said this act, and the larger package it is attached to needs to be passed by the House immediately and not held on the Speaker of the House’s desk.