Tester: New Ag Secretary Must Support Rural Communities

Senator Supports Perdue, Highlights Challenges Facing Montana Producers & Forests

(U.S. Senate) – The U.S. Senate’s only active farmer today joined Republicans and Democrats to confirm President Trump’s Agriculture Secretary nominee, Gov. Sonny Perdue. 

Senator Jon Tester endorsed Perdue on the Senate floor prior to the vote. Tester told his colleagues he will hold the former governor of Georgia accountable to rural Montana families and encourage him to push back against the Administration’s proposed budget cuts to rural infrastructure and the Farm Service Agency.

“We need the next Ag Secretary to ensure we’re supporting rural communities, not pulling the rug out from under them,”
Tester said. “This means pushing back against the draconian budget cuts that have been put forward by the Administration.”

The Administration’s proposed budget slashes nearly $5 billion from critical agriculture and rural economic development initiatives, which is 21 percent of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s budget.

Tester also called on Perdue to protect safety nets for family farms and ranches in the next Farm Bill. Tester launched a Farm Bill Listening Tour last year, and has held multiple town hall meetings with Montana producers. The current Farm Bill is set to expire next year.

“With wheat prices at a decade low, and ranchers still rebounding from last year’s cattle price plunge, it is critical that we construct a Farm Bill that works for family farms and ranches,” Tester added. “I urge Mr. Perdue to help me educate folks in this body and the White House that the safety net is more than a talking point. Preserving the safety net in the next Farm Bill will ensure that a bad year doesn’t wipe out family farms and ranches across this country.”

Tester closed his remarks on the Senate floor by urging Perdue to support on-the-ground collaborative forest management plans like the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act, which promotes active forest management and strengthens Montana’s outdoor economy. The U.S. Department of Agriculture oversees the U.S. Forest Service.

“I have been a long supporter of collaborative efforts to increase active forest management, improve recreation opportunities on our public lands, and preserve these special places for future generations,” Tester said. “These are the kind of solutions that we need to increase active forest management and put folks back to work in the woods.”

After Tester’s remarks, the Senate confirmed Perdue 87-11.