KFYR-TV: Senator Jon Tester holds hearings on upcoming Farm Bill in Eastern Montana

by Michael Anthony

PLENTYWOOD, M.T. (KUMV) – The United States Farm Bill is up for renewal this year. Legislators across the country are meeting with producers for public input.

Everything from crop insurance, conservation efforts and support for producers stems from the Federal Farm Bill, which expires later this fall.

“The Farm Bills keep us in business. It’s critical to getting out in the world and finding markets,” said Kim Murray, a producer near Froid, Montana.

With work on drafting legislation underway, Senator Jon Tester made stops in Plentywood, Glasgow, and Sidney to hear from producers on what they want to see in the bill’s renewal.

“Agriculture is our number one industry in this state. It is critically important that we have family-farm agriculture that is vibrant. If we don’t, it will change the landscape of this country forever,” said Tester.

Some of those priorities included making it easier for local meat processors to compete with bigger brands.

“We can’t get our beef into grocery stores because they mainly want the big packing plant’s beef, which is causing a problem for production,” said Layne Johnson, whose family owns “Montana Branded,” a meat producer near Westby.

They also are looking for some added assurance from the Federal Government after dealing with challenges stemming from COVID-19 and supply chain issues.

“Now is the time to make an investment in agriculture for every American so that we can address food security and uncertainty that they are facing right now,” said Paul Kanning, a member of the Montana Grain Growers Association.

Rural communities throughout eastern Montana rely heavily on agriculture, which is why local producers want to see a strong farm bill. With the bill set to expire by the end of September, Tester says his hope is to have a bill ready to go this summer.

The Farm Bill is renewed every five years. In 2018, congress passed the bill three months after expiration.

Senator Jon Tester holds hearings on upcoming Farm Bill in Eastern Montana (kfyrtv.com)