The Fence Post: Tester has commitment to bring up cattle bills

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., told the National Farmers Union here Sunday evening that he has a commitment from Senate leadership to bring up his bills to create a special investigator at the Agriculture Department to investigate violations of the Packers and Stockyards Act and a bill to increase cattle spot market sales.

In a speech to the NFU annual convention, said he is determined to pass those bills and others to help the meat industry and to reduce the concentration of agribusiness that has hurt rural America.

“The packers today are manipulating the cash price,” Tester said. “They are forcing down prices, This bill will help stop that.”

In a brief interview, Tester told The Hagstrom Report that he intends to put the two bills together into one.

“The beef industry today is more consolidated than when the Packers and Stockyards Act was passed was passed” in 1921, Tester said. The result, he added, is “fewer family farms, fewer schools. Rural America drying up.”

Tester said that in 1978 when he took over the family farm near Big Sandy, Mont., “Multinationals had a grip on the family farm. It has gotten worse.” He noted that the population of Big Sandy has declined from 1,000 to 500 and that the number of grain elevators and stores has gone down.

Tester said he also is determined to pass a bill to revive mandatory country-of-origin labeling for red meat, a bill to ban the importation of Brazilian beef and another bill to allow state-inspected processors to sell across state lines.

If he can get those bills done, Tester said, “it will be an opportunity for people to come back to the farm and ranch.”

He also noted he has introduced a bill to give farmers “the right to repair” equipment. It would require equipment companies to reveal to farmers the software in the machines so they could buy items to repair them.

Tester noted that he and his wife, Sharla, have been on the farm 45 years this year and that his grandfather was on the farm 33 years and his father 35 years. He said he hopes a grandson who is a freshman in high school will take over the farm after he finishes college.

Tester noted that his grandparents, parents and he and his wife have all been Farmers Union members.

“There are very few farm groups that work for family farm agriculture,” he said. “National Farmers Union is the leader and as long as they are doing that I am going to be a member.”

“I have a dream and my dream is that rural America will become vibrant again,” he said.