Tester talks about trade, USDA-ARS, and veterans

by Nicole Lucina, Sidney Herald

Entering his third term, Senator Jon Tester is focusing on veterans, healthcare, farmers, tariffs and more. During a press call, Tester expressed his gratitude toward Montanans for entrusting him for a third term.

“I am humbled by the support and honored to fight for our state every day and hold Washington accountable. There is a lot of work to do, and I’m ready to roll up my sleeves,” Tester said.

This past October, Tester talked about the need for ag scientists in Sidney at the Northern Plains Agricultural Research Laboratory. Funding issues have caused difficulties keeping positions at the center filled.

Tester has continued to push for filling the vacancies at the center, and said that five of the 13 positions are being filled soon.

“Jon is pushing hard to ensure that the research lab is fully staffed so they can conduct important research for Montana farmers and ranchers,” said Deputy Communications Director for Tester, Dave Kuntz. “The biggest thing is that Jon knows that farmers and ranchers depend on the research center.”

He added that Tester is fighting to make sure that scientific research, which can help farmers and ranchers of Sidney continue to have a strong and healthy yield, continues to get strong support.

Tester has also been working hard on veterans issues, and expects the Senate to take up his bipartisan Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act soon. While the Blue Water Navy Veterans served offshore during the Vietnam War, they were exposed to Agent Orange.

“But due to misguided rules imposed by the VA, these veterans are ineligible for VA care and benefits because, though they were sent to a foreign war, they were stationed off-shore and never stepped foot on mainland Vietnam,” Tester said.

The bill Tester is proposing would ensure the Blue Water Navy Veterans would be able to receive the proper treatment and benefits. He went on to explain that his bill would also extend to families of veterans who served near the military bases in Thailand during the Vietnam War.

This caused veterans and family members to contract deadly diseases such as spina bifida at a higher rate compared to the rest of the population. They have continuously been denied benefits for this.

“It’s time to do right by these heroes and get this bill passed and signed into law,” Tester said.

Tester added that there are seven appropriation bills that are needed to fund the government.

“These bills are critical to Montana, and include funding for USDA, the Department of Homeland Security, and other high-level agencies,” he said. “Businesses need long-term certainty. Farmers and ranchers need long-term certainty. Our men and women in uniform need long-term certainty. And that is why I am calling on all sides to work together and avoid another costly government shutdown.”

Tester, as the Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, is part of budget negotiations. He said he is committed to passing a funding bill that will give Customs and Border Protection officers what they need to succeed, but is also aiming to invest in new technology to secure the border and strengthen ports of entry.

“I want to address our country’s self-inflicted problem that doesn’t seem to have and end in sight,” Tester said. “The growing trade war between the U.S., China, and our other trade partners is taking a financial toll on Montana.”

Farmers throughout the state still have last year’s grain in the bin due to markets being too weak to sell, Tester said.

“These tariffs have cause commodity prices to fall across the board,” he said. “And they have loaded family farmers and ranchers with uncertainty just as we are planning for next growing season.”

Tester is concerned that tariffs could cause U.S. farmers to permanently lose access to international markets.

“That could be a death nail in the coffin for many of the rural communities across our state,” he said. “Montanans raise the best products in the world, and we need access to overseas markets in order to get the best returns for our grain, beef, and everything else that we raise.”