Montana Farmers and Ranchers Praise Tester for Passing Strong Farm Bill, Defending State’s Top Industry

(Butte, Mont.)—Montana farmers and ranchers are praising U.S. Senator Jon Tester today for defending Montana’s top industry by passing a strong Farm Bill out of the Senate.

Tester worked with Republicans and Democrats to pass a bipartisan Farm Bill out of the Senate yesterday by a vote of 86-11. The House and Senate must pass the same version of the Farm Bill before it can be signed into law by the President.

“Ensuring our producers have a strong safety net is a top priority for the Montana Grain Growers Association,” said Michelle Erickson-Jones, President of the Montana Grain Growers Association. “We applaud the U.S. Senate for the passage of a bi-partisan Farm Bill. Our organization and producers across the state appreciate Senator Tester’s strong support of the Farm Bill. We are also pleased to see the inclusion of Senator Tester’s amendment to improve the ARC-CO program. This amendment will provide significant program improvements for Montana’s wheat producers. We look forward to continuing our work with Senator Tester’s office to ensure the Farm Bill advances through a conference committee and ultimately final passage before September 2018.”

“The Farm Bill is incredibly important because it provides a safety net for farmers and ranchers and secures a stable food supply for all Americans,” said Hans McPherson, President of the Montana Farm Bureau Federation. “It helps American farmers produce the safest, most abundant and economical food on earth, which benefits everyone. With the current law set to expire shortly, we applaud the Senate’s action on the bill and hope to see it move through conference and on to the President’s desk quickly. We appreciate Senator Tester’s continued attention to, and support of the bill.”

“The Senate Farm Bill provides certainty for cattle producers in Montana and across the U.S. From needed conservation programs to timely disaster assistance programs along with needed livestock health provisions, this bill has it all,” said Leo McDonnell, U.S. Cattlemen’s Association Director Emeritus. “Once again Senator Tester worked in a bi-partisan fashion to get a win for agriculture and his efforts are appreciated.”

“Our thanks to Senator Tester for supporting a Farm Bill that continues America’s no-cost sugar policy, which provides a strong safety net for farm families and employees of Sidney Sugars,” said David Garland, General Manager of Sidney Sugars.

“I thank Senator Tester for his successful efforts to pass a farm bill that meets the needs of farmers here in Montana and across the nation,” said Gordon Stoner, Immediate Past President of the National Association of Wheat Growers. “With today’s uncertain economic environment, the strong safety net provided by the farm bill is more important than ever.”

“The Senate’s version of the Farm Bill adequately addresses the needs of Montana farmers and ranchers through provisions for crop insurance, conservation and nutrition programs, and rural development,” said Alan Merrill, President of Montana Farmers Union. “We are encouraged by its passage and look forward to swift action as it moves to conference.”

Tester strongly supported the Senate’s Farm Bill, which includes critical Montana provisions that:

  • Reauthorizes and keeps intact both Price Loss Coverage and Ag Risk Coverage (ARC) insurance.
  • Keeps the popular Conservation Stewardship Program intact.
  • Amends the Environmental Quality Incentive Program to better work for Montana producers.
  • Increases the maximum acreage of the Conservation Reserve Program.
  • Directs the USDA Secretary to more actively fight the spread of Foot and Mouth Disease.
  • Protects sugar policies that have been successfully utilized in the current Farm Bill.
  • Reauthorizes the Wheat and Barley Scab Initiative, which is vital to the mission of the Northern Plains Research Lab in Sidney.
  • Mandates funding for the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program.
  • Removes hemp from the list of controlled substances, enabling it to be sold as a commodity.
  • Consolidates the Market Access Program and the Foreign Market Development Program to create a new trade promotion initiative.
  • Reauthorizes critical USDA Rural Development Grants that are used to rebuild and construct water and wastewater infrastructure and expand access to high-speed internet in rural areas.

“Montana producers can’t be forced to wait any longer,” Tester said. “This Farm Bill does right by family farmers and ranchers by protecting crop insurance and investing in rural communities. The House should take this bill up immediately and give producers the long-term certainty they need to thrive.”

Tester also attached a bipartisan amendment to the Senate Farm Bill that provides state and local Farm Service Agency Committees with the ability to identify new ARC boundaries in large, rural counties. This amendment will better reflect crop and growing conditions for farmers enrolled in ARC crop insurance.

Tester held seven open-to-the-public Farm Bill listening sessions across the state over the past year and a half to gather feedback from producers.