Tester Brings Home Major Investments in Montana’s Rural Communities

As member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator secures funding for production agriculture, public lands, and infrastructure

U.S. Senator Jon Tester, member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, secured billions in funding for critical Montana priorities as a part of a series of bills to fund the government for the next fiscal year.

Tester worked diligently to include priorities in the Agriculture, Rural Development and Food and Drug Administration; Interior-Environment; and Energy and Water Development spending bills that invest in Montana’s rural communities, specifically championing funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the Milk River Project including St. Mary’s, and provisions addressing price fixing and trade disparities within agricultural markets that impact Montana producers.

“Investments in rural America are investments in Montana’s future,” said Tester. “These bills include critical funding to address some of the most pressing issues folks in rural areas face—the rising rate of suicide among farmers and ranchers, consolidation and price disparities in production agriculture, and outdated or damaged infrastructure in and around our public lands. And while I’m happy to see that these bills include many of the Montana priorities I fought for, I’m very disturbed by Majority Leader McConnell’s disregard for legislative process. By dodging the critical process of a good old-fashioned markup, Senators are unable to propose amendments on behalf of their states and Americans miss out on a critical public discussion of where exactly their tax dollars are going.”

This year, Majority Leader McConnell chose to cancel Committee markups of the Fiscal Year 2021 appropriations bills, eliminating the ability of Senators to both offer amendments and discuss issues in public before the American people in an open and transparent process. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Tester has repeatedly expressed frustration and discontent towards subverting the usual process of holding markup.

In that role, Tester plays a significant role in writing the 12 bills that fund the federal government each year.

Montana priorities Tester successfully included in the Agriculture, Rural Development and Food and Drug Administration Appropriations are:

Farm and Ranch Mental Health:

  • $10 million for the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network
  • Requirements directing U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to develop a national strategy for addressing farm and ranch mental stress and establish best practices for state and community implementation
  • Requirements directing USDA to expand the existing staff training pilot program to ensure that all farmer-facing employees have access to voluntary suicide prevention training
  • Requirements directing USDA to provide quarterly reports detailing the indicators of stress, data on stress response strategies, and emerging trends in rural economic and health care needs resulting from these stress interventions


  • $400 million for USDA’s ReConnect Program
  • $87 million for broadband supporting Distance Learning and Telemedicine

Cattle, Grains, and Hemp:

  • Expressions of concern regarding USDA’s decision to resume imports of Brazilian beef
  • Requirements directing USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service to provide a report to the committee with strategies being employed to ensure Brazilian beef imports are meeting set standards
  • Requirements directing the Agriculture Secretary to work with the Attorney General to ensure meat pricing mechanisms are transparent and there is competition in the cattle industry
  • Expressions of concern regarding Canada’s unfair wheat grading practices, specifically acknowledging the need to address the Varietal Registration System in order to achieve parity in grain trade
  • Requirements directing USDA to revise the hemp sampling and testing protocols within the interim final rule for hemp


  • $3 million to research technology-based rangeland and livestock management strategies to optimize health and productivity of both Western rangeland based livestock and the rangeland ecosystem

Montana priorities Tester successfully included in the Interior-Environment Appropriations bill are:

Land and Water Conservation Fund:

  • U.S. Forest Service Projects:
    • $8 million for the Miller Lake Valley
    • $6 million for Lolo Trails maintenance and restoration
    • $6 million for the Kootenai Forestlands Conservation Project
    • $4 million for the Bad Rock Canyon Conservation Project
  • Bureau of Land Management Projects
    • $10 million for the Lower Musselshell River Conservation Project
    • $3.3 million for the Blackfoot River watershed
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Projects
    • $2 million for Montana National Wildlife Refuges and Conservation Areas

Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT):

  • $515 million for PILT programming

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA):

  • $4.283 billion in State and Tribal Assistance Grants
  • $1.184 billion for Superfund emergency response, removal, and remedial actions
  • $64.5 million to address PFAS Contamination
  • Requirements directing EPA to continue analyzing the impacts of Canadian coal mining on the Kootenai watershed
  • Requirements directing EPA to finalize its risk assessment for asbestos
  • Expressions of support for research into the impacts of wildfire smoke

U.S. Department of Interior:

  • $1.313 billion in wildland fire preparedness and suppression

U.S. Forest Service:

  • $4.014 billion in wildland fire preparedness and suppression

Montana priorities Tester successfully included in the Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill are:

Milk River Project at St. Mary’s:

  • $3.2 million for the Milk River Project
  • Requirements directing the Bureau of Reclamation to work with local stakeholders to upgrade and repair infrastructure without undue impact to water users

Rural Water Projects:

  • $1.9 million for the Rocky Boy’s/North Central rural water system
  • $2.4 million for the Fort Peck/Dry Prairie rural water systems
  • $117.4 million in additional rural water funding

U.S. Department of Energy:

  • $115 million for wind energy research
  • $233.8 million for solar energy research
  • $105 million for geothermal energy research
  • $213.6 million for carbon capture and storage research

Weatherization Assistance Program:

  • $305 million in state assistance grants

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers:

  • $11 million for watercraft inspection stations for aquatic invasive species, including invasive mussels
  • $5.3 million for operations and maintenance of Fort Peck Dam and Lake
  • $1.7 million for operations and maintenance of Libby Dam