Tester blasts Obama’s proposal to dial back critical agriculture research at Sidney Lab

Senator says without sawfly research, farmers could take a big hit

(U.S. Senate)-Senator Jon Tester blasted President Obama’s proposal to dial back critical agriculture research being carried out at the Northern Plains Agriculture Research Lab in Sidney, Montana.

After the Administration proposed a $1.3 million cut to sawfly research, Tester asked U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack to explain the long-term plans for the research facility in Sidney.

Tester received reassurance that the facility will remain fully staffed and operational. However, Vilsack said the focus of the research being done in Sidney could shift away from sawflies and other pests that threaten Montana crops.

“The folks in Sidney conduct cutting edge research for Montana’s family farmers and ranchers,” said Tester. “Sawflies pose a serious threat to our state’s number one industry, and if we don’t have the best information at our fingertips, Montana farmers could take a big hit.”

According to Secretary Vilsack, 41 scientists currently work at Sidney’s Northern Plains Agriculture Research Lab and there are no plans to reduce the number of employees.

The Northern Plains Agriculture Research Lab carries out studies on agriculture issues such as the impact of the Wheat Stem Sawfly and other crop pests. The Wheat Stem Sawfly causes over $250 million in crop damage every year across the nation, including $80 million in damages in Montana.

Tester also criticized the Obama Administration for inadequately investing in the Smith-Lever Act and Hatch Act programs, which help support agriculture research and extension services across the nation.

As a member of the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, Tester will work to ensure meaningful sawfly and pest research is prioritized before the committee passes an appropriations bill later this year.

For every dollar invested in agriculture research, $20 is returned to Montana’s economy.