Tester Grills Ag Secretary, Defends Montana’s Number One Industry

Senator: If You Put Me and My Neighbors Out of Business We’ve Got a Major Problem Here

(U.S. Senate) – U.S. Senator Jon Tester is defending Montana’s number one industry against reckless decisions that could hurt family farmers and ranchers.

Tester, the Senate’s only working farmer, today grilled U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue during a Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee hearing over the Trump Administration’s decision to pull out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, undermine NAFTA negotiations, and instigate a potential trade war with China. Tester specifically raised his concerns that the Administration’s tariffs will drive down commodity prices for Montana farmers and ranchers.

“Look, I get that China’s a bad actor, but if you put me and my neighbors out of business in the process we’ve got a major problem here,” Tester said. “So, I know it’s to get a better deal, but in the meantime if those prices go to hell, we’re done.”

Tester added that the Trump Administration’s plan to reimburse farmers for the drop in commodity prices as a result of the Chinese tariffs is a non-starter.

“We’re going to take more taxpayer dollars and reimburse farmers who don’t want government subsidies as a general rule, they want their paycheck coming from the marketplace,”
Tester told Perdue. “Could you address what you’re going to do when in fact these markets go to hell? Because they’re going to and they are.”

Tester also zeroed in on the Administration’s proposed cuts to crop insurance programs, the same cuts Tester successfully defended against in last year’s budget.

“When I go home most people tell me, unequivocally, don’t screw up crop insurance-it’s our lifeblood, it is our safety net,” Tester said. “But in this proposal, for the second year in a row, you’re going to cut subsidies for crop insurance. And I know there are some out there that don’t understand agriculture that think that that’s just a good thing to do, but you understand agriculture. And I will tell you it’s unacceptable.”

Tester has been fighting to give Montanans a voice in ongoing trade negotiations and the future of crop insurance at more than half a dozen Farm Bill Listening Sessions across the state.

Montanans interested in sharing their feedback on the upcoming farm bill can e-mail Tester at FarmBillComments@tester.senate.gov.