Sidney Herald: Sen. Jon Tester praises National Ag Day

by Senator Jon Tester

In Montana, production agriculture is more than a means to an end – it’s a way of life.

It’s how we put food on the table and it’s what keeps our rural communities strong.

But family farming is becoming tougher every year, and I don’t have to tell you that 2021 was one of the worst years for producers on record.

Between historic drought and untimely hail storms, yields were down, and a lot of folks were left hurting – mix in limited border travel, and the rising cost of inputs, and it made for the perfect storm of low profitability.

But Montana’s producers are resilient. You don’t do the work because it’s easy, you do it because the nation and the world depend on you.

That’s why it is important that elected officials stand up for family farms and ranches, and why I’m proud to fight for Montana’s producers every day in the United States Senate.

Whether it’s a drought or a flood, it’s critical that you have the resources that you need to weather any storm – and that’s why we hounded USDA to ensure that Montana’s family farmer and ranchers get the relief you need to balance the books.

Your work is critical to our nation’s economy and food security, and you shouldn’t have to worry about making your operation pencil when the weather turns sour.

But extreme weather isn’t the only threat facing Montana’s small and medium producers – consolidation in the marketplace has never been higher, and with your help, we’re going to take serious action to ensure that you’re getting a fair shake.

The Packers and Stockyards Act was passed in 1921 to ensure fair competition and fair trade practices in the meatpacking industry – but today, consolidation in the industry is even worse than it was 100 years ago.

That’s why I’m working with Republicans like Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa to pass a few key pieces of bipartisan legislation that will curb anticompetitive practices and break up monopolies in the market. These bills include:

The Meat Packing Special Investigator Act, which will finally put some teeth in the Packers and Stockyards Act and give the Department of Justice the ability to investigate anticompetitive practices and break up monopolies in the market.

The Cattle Price Discovery and Transparency Act, which will give Montana’s producers more transparency into the cattle market, and more power to negotiate cash and grid trades in the market.

The New Markets for State Inspected Meat and Poultry Act, which will allow folks that butcher cows at state inspected shops in Richland County to sell beef down the road to your neighbors in Williston or Watford City, opening up new markets for folks across the state and across the nation.

In a time when meat packers and feeders are seeing record profits, it’s about time that Montana’s cow calf operators got their cut as well. Together, we’re going to break up consolidation in the meatpacking industry and ensure that Montana’s ranchers receive fair prices for their premium products – while also lowering costs for consumers at the grocery store.

But consolidation stretches beyond just the meatpacking industry. Over the past several decades, it’s become increasingly difficult for folks to work on their farm equipment themselves. Simple repairs that used to take an hour now require complex software to diagnose, or tools to fix, and producers can’t afford to waste time in the middle of a tight planting or harvesting season.

That’s why I introduced the Agricultural Right to Repair Act, which will fix this by forcing large equipment manufacturers to make software and tools available on reasonable terms to farmers and ranchers so that you can make the repair yourself, or choose where to get your equipment fixed.

This legislation will save you time and money, and is frankly long overdue.

Your input is invaluable to me as we craft policy in the Senate, and I’m looking forward to hearing your feedback as we start to work on the 2023 Farm Bill in the coming year. Things in the farm bill like the sugar program are essential to keeping our economy strong, so as our state’s experts, please stay in touch as we start to draft the legislation.

The dedication and grit of producers in the Treasure State is second to none, and you make me proud to celebrate National Ag Day.

From one farmer to another, thanks for all that you do for our state, and please know that my door is always open.