Tester to Biden Administration: Fully Re-Open Northern Ports, Drop Outdated Vaccine Requirements

Senator: “These policies are wrong for Montana and it is past time to reverse them.”

As a part of his continued effort to lower costs for families and businesses, U.S. Senator Jon Tester today called on the Biden Administration to fully reopen all ports of entry in Montana to pre-pandemic hours and terminate the vaccination requirements for Canadian truck drivers entering the United States through land ports of entry. Tester’s letter comes after meeting with Montana farmers and business owners who rely on trade and travel across the northern border via Ports like Raymond, Opheim, and Morgan.

“Too often folks in Washington don’t understand what a hard day’s work looks like and the challenges Montana families face when federal policies, such as limiting port hours, remain in effect for too long,” wrote Tester in a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. “Trade and travel across the northern border are critical for businesses and families across Montana and the United States.  Restoring the hours of operations to ports of entry in Montana and ending the one-sided vaccine mandate for Canadian truck drivers and other travelers will ensure that Montana communities and the American economy can continue to grow.”

In his letter to Secretary Mayorkas, Tester noted that after several public meetings in northeastern Montana this year, he heard multiple firsthand accounts of how the current policy is hurting Montana families and small businesses. Specifically, he cited Plentywood farmers struggling to get parts they need from the region’s largest implement dealership located across the Port of Raymond, and about how the reduced hours and ongoing vaccine requirements at the port of entry are causing the long-haul truckers who used to support the small businesses in Plentywood to disappear.

Tester has been increasingly critical of the Biden Administration’s refusal to reinstate pre-pandemic hours of service and terminate vaccination requirements for Canadian truck drivers, first calling for a full reopening in April, 2022. In May, 2022, Tester grilled Secretary Mayorkas about the Department’s plans to better retain Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents, secure the Northern border, and restore U.S.-Canada points of entry to pre-pandemic operating times. Last year, he raise these concerns directly to CBP after hearing from Glasgow producers who are struggling to get needed inputs through the Port of Opheim, and Malta residents whose summer motorsports season is being threatened by limited hours of service at the Port of Morgan.

Tester has been Montana’s most effective proponent for resuming full trade and commerce with Canada along the northern border, and successfully pushed for a partial reopening of the border in November, 2021.

Montana shares a 545 mile border with Canada and is home to many border towns whose economies rely on Canadian trade and commerce. As the summer season approaches, Montanans will increasingly rely on cross-border trade to meet their agricultural needs. According to the Canadian Trade Commissioner, Canada is Montana’s top international trading partner, buying more from the state than the next six states combined. Reports by the U.S. Trade Representative estimate that Montana exported $692 million in goods to Canada in 2018, representing 42 percent of the state’s total goods exports.

Securing the northern border and ensuring continued 24-hour operation at ports of entry are among Senator Tester’s top priorities in Congress. As the former top Democrat on the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, Tester has worked on projects like Operation Stonegarden, which provides funding and resources to state, local, and Tribal law enforcement agencies focusing on increasing preparedness, coordination, and effectiveness along the northern border.

Tester’s full letter can be found HERE.