Tester Fights to Increase Agriculture Research and Invest in Rural Infrastructure

Montana’s Senior Senator Includes Many Montana Priorities in Annual Funding Bill

(U.S. Senate)-Senator Jon Tester today voted to increase investments in agriculture research and critical rural water infrastructure for Montana family farmers and ranchers in an annual funding bill approved unanimously by the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Tester included many Montana priorities in the 2017 Agriculture Appropriations bill, which funds farm and ranch, conservation, rural development, and food initiatives across the nation. Tester’s funding requests received support from Republicans and Democrats on the Appropriations Committee.

“Agriculture is Montana’s largest industry, and it is important that farmers and ranchers have the resources they need to be successful,” said Tester, a farmer from Big Sandy, Montana. “This bill increases agriculture research for family farmers and ranchers, invests in infrastructure in rural communities, and boosts initiatives that protect our western way of life.”

The 2017 Agriculture Appropriations bill provides more than $2.5 billion for agriculture research, including increases of $34 million for the Agriculture Research Service and $38 million for the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Both of these U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) initiatives support research grants and coordinate research on behalf of Montana producers.

The bill also provides $546 million to construct and upgrade water and wastewater infrastructure in rural communities, which is an increase of $23 million compared with the current year.

Tester, a member of the subcommittee that authored the bill, was able to secure language in the 2017 Agriculture Appropriations bill that guarantees the Northern Plains Research Lab in Sidney, Montana will remain fully staffed and operational. Tester’s language also ensures the lab in Sidney will continue to research the impact of the Wheat Stem Sawfly, which causes over $250 million in crop damage every year across the nation, including $80 million in damages in Montana.

“Sawflies are a serious threat to the bottom line of Montana producers. The hard working folks at Sidney’s research lab do outstanding work, and this bill gives them certainty to continue to provide local farmers with the most up-to-date research available,” Tester said.

Tester also secured increased resources for the following initiatives:

  • Supporting military veterans in agriculture:
  • Armed-to-Farm program operated by the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) in Butte.
  • USDA outreach to veterans.
  • FARM-Vets program, which supports training, behavioral health services, and pathways to employment in agriculture.
  • Farm-to-School Initiative, which improves access schools have to local produced food. 
  • Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations, which provides USDA quality foods to low-income households in Indian Country.

Agriculture is Montana’s largest industry and generates over $4.2 billion in economic activity each year.

The 2017 Agriculture Appropriations bill will now head to the Senate floor for a vote.