Tester protects Farm Service Agency offices in key Senate bill

Senator also backs efforts to support ag disaster recovery, protect ranchers

(U.S. SENATE) – With the Farm Bill still coming online in Montana and rural America, Montana farmer and U.S. Senator Jon Tester is making sure Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices stay open to help producers grappling with the new law.

Tester secured language in the Senate bill that funds the Agriculture Department to keep all FSA offices open for the next fiscal year. FSA offices provide producers with information and resources to improve production and expand their operations.

Tester is a member of the subcommittee that authored the Agriculture Department’s budget bill.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack previously proposed closing or restructuring some FSA offices. Tester, while applauding Vilsack’s efforts to make government more efficient, said that it’s not the right time to trim resources for producers.

“As we implement the new Farm Bill, keeping FSA offices open is more important than ever,” said Tester, a third-generation farmer from Big Sandy. “In Montana, the nearest Farm Service agent can be more than 70 miles away. Asking farmers to travel even farther for the support they need is bad for business.”

Yesterday, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the bill with unanimous, bipartisan support. Senator John Walsh (D-Mont.) has also been working on the issue as a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

Tester also successfully fought against a provision that would limit efforts to crack down on anti-competitive practices in the livestock industry. The provision, which is opposed by much of Montana’s ranching community, was included in the House of Representatives’ version of the bill.

The Agriculture Appropriations bill also includes $110 million for the Emergency Watershed Protection Program. The initiative helps producers respond to natural disasters such as flood and fire.

A copy of the Senate bill is available online HERE. A summary of it from the Appropriations Committee is online HERE.