Tester, Baucus push USDA to help Montana farmers recover from hailstorm
Senators request disaster assistance to help Gallatin, Madison, Park counties overcome devastation
(U.S. SENATE) – In the wake of a damaging hailstorm that wreaked havoc on Montana farmland just days before harvest, Senators Jon Tester and Max Baucus are calling on the USDA to provide needed assistance to southwest Montana farmers.
The early August storm caused crop losses of between 50 to 100 percent for several area producers. Damage to wheat, pea and potato fields – along with other crops – in Gallatin County is estimated to be worth nearly $50 million.
Tester and Baucus want the USDA to approve disaster assistance for producers in Gallatin, Madison and Park counties. Governor Steve Bullock made the official assistance request earlier this month.
“We are greatly concerned about the ability of area farmers to recover from this event,” Tester and Baucus told U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “The ongoing dry period has already tested farmers’ ability to maintain yields and businesses and the damage wreaked by this storm may mean some farmers need help to rebuild and recover.”
“Agriculture is Montana’s largest industry, and we appreciate your help in providing relief to its hardworking farmers and ranchers who are struggling at this critical time,” the Senators added.
Tester and Baucus also noted that the hailstorm adds to what has already been a difficult growing season in the region.
Tester, a third generation dirt farmer, recently toured the damaged farmland with Governor Bullock, saying the sight made him “sick to his stomach.”
Baucus is one of only 12 members of the Senate appointed to a joint Conference Committee with the task of combining the House and Senate Farm Bills into one final piece of legislation that can be signed into law. Baucus has indicated he will use this opportunity to fight for a long-term bill that works for Montana. Particularly, Baucus will fight to ensure losses, such as those from the recent hail storm, are measured at the individual farm level. The alternative, measuring losses at the county level, can sometimes prevent individual farmers from getting the help they need if their overall county was not significantly impacted. Measuring losses at the individual level, like Baucus is fighting for, makes sure that everyone who needs help is eligible, while taxpayer dollars are not wasted where they aren’t needed. The recent hail storm damage is an example of why farm-level losses are so important. Baucus helped pass the Farm Bill through the Senate in June.
Tester and Baucus last month secured disaster relief for several Montana counties affected by severe flooding.