Miles City, FSA offices off the chopping block for now

Senate committees pass bills with language prohibiting closure of essential agricultural facilities

The Miles City cattle research farm and county Farm Service Agency offices appear likely to stick around, with both winning language in budget bills for fiscal year 2018 that prohibit their closure.

Language in the Senate’s FY2018 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill nixes closing both the Fort Keogh Range and Livestock Research Laboratory in Miles City and the U.S. Sheep Experiment Station in Idaho.

The two centers were among 17 USDA-Agricultural Research Service centers listed for closure in President Donald Trump’s budget proposal. The bill rejects closing any of them.

The Miles City unit is home to the famous Line 1 Hereford herd, which has helped lead research discoveries in beef cattle and is responsible for much of what is known about cattle genetics in the United States. The herd there is an asset that has been 75 years in the making and is not duplicated anywhere else.

The MonDak’s Congressional delegation has been unanimously opposed to cutting research centers in the past and had promised they would fight the latest attempt to target what they said is valuable research that keeps American farmers and ranchers on the cutting edge.

“Montana’s farmers and ranchers are some of our state’s most hardworking folks, and I’m doing all I can to ensure they have the support they need,” Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., said. He is a member of the Senate’s agricultural appropriations committee.

Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., meanwhile, who is chairman of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committee, said the bill also includes $2.55 billion to support agricultural research that is conducted by the Agricultural Research Service and the National Institute of Food

and Agriculture.

Hoeven also touted additional support for farmers and ranchers facing severe drought in the Midwest, including North Dakota and Montana, that was included in the bill. These provisions  include funding for transporting hay and livestock under the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honey Bees and Farm-raised Fish program (ELAP), and a requirement to report on any backlog in drought relief programs. That part of the bill also directed USDA to consider making additional conservation acres available for emergency grazing and haying and to allocate additional staff and resources to drought-stricken areas.

“We worked hard to maintain our agriculture budget and ensure this legislation supports our farmers, ranchers and rural communities, especially in the face of such severe natural disasters,” Hoeven said. “This legislation makes additional support available to areas struggling with drought, including funding to help move hay and livestock. In addition we maintained a robust safety net, while also making strong investments in farm service programs, agricultural research and rural development programs to help make our agricultural communities strong and vibrant.”

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., touted amendments to strengthen the ban on Brazilian beef imports and to force the nomination of a USDA Rural Development Undersecretary in the 2018 Agriculture Bill. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue had sought to eliminate the position.

“During times of drought and market uncertainty, it is critical that Montana family farmers and ranchers have the resources they need to protect their bottom line,” Tester said. “This important bill invests in agriculture research, protects FSA jobs, improves water infrastructure and ensures rural America has an advocate at USDA. Republicans and Democrats support this bill because folks worked together to address the needs of rural families and rural communities.”

Funding for rural water and wastewater infrastructure development was also included in the 2018 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill, along with $10 million for the Blackfeet Water Compact ratified by Congress last fall.

“Montana’s rural water projects are vital to families, businesses and family farms and ranches across the state, and they create good-paying jobs,” Tester said. “The water infrastructure investments secured today will help close that funding gap and provide folks with additional certainty. Reliable access to clean water is essential for every Montanan.”

The bill also:

• Rejects proposed cuts to crop insurance and other farm bill programs

• Prohibits closing county Farm Service Agency offices and provides $1.2 billion for the FSA, a significant increase over what Trump had proposed.

• Includes language prohibiting any federal funds from being used to obstruct industrial hemp pilot projects, authorized under the 2014 Farm Bill, so long as they are being cultivated in accordance with the respective state’s laws

• Provides $375 million for the Agriculture and Food Research initiative, $244 million for the Hatch Act formula that funds research at state agriculture experiment stations and $300 million for Sith-Lever programs that support overall extension service activities

• Urges the Food and Drug Administration to collaborate with federal agencies on the opioid epidemic and prepare guidelines to ensure that only the lowest effective dose is prescribed

• Includes funding to continue Hoeven’s Agriculture Risk Coverage pilot program that allows an alternate calculation method for crop payments if National Agricultural Statistics Service data is insufficient

• Maintains funding for the Water Bank initiative, which compensates farmers and landowners for flooded land through 10-year voluntary conservation agreements.

• Directs the Animal Plant Health Inspection Service to work with local, state and federal agencies on managing brucellosis and other zoonotic disease outbreaks in animals and humans and directs funding to advance research into vaccines and other tools to counter the disease

• Maintains fiscal year 2017 funding levels for USDA Rural Development programs including $12.5 billion for loans, $394 million for grants and $18 million for the Circuit Rider program in Rural Water and Waste Programs; $6.94 billion rural electric and telephone infrastructure loans and $30 million in broadband grants.

• Urges the U.S. Trade Representative and Department of Commerce to prioritize unfair wheat grading practices in trade negotiations with Canada

• Provides funding for the U.S. Wheat Barley Scab Initiative to help fight the disease that causes vomitoxin contamination in small grains

• Appropriates $2.75 million for the Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas program, which helps find work opportunities for veterans through the Armed to Farm program

• Includes research grants and extension services for Montana’s seven tribal colleges

• Directs USDA to disclose costs associated with analyses required by the National Environmental Policy Act.

Source:  Renée Jean of the Williston Herald

Tester Announces Assistance for Montana Counties Affected by Drought

Senator Secures Assistance for Farmers and Ranchers in Six Montana Counties

 

(U.S. Senate)– U.S. Senator Jon Tester announced that farmers and ranchers in six Montana counties would have access to drought assistance through U.S. Department of Agriculture disaster relief programs.

 

“Northeast Montana has been hammered by drought and I’m pleased this critical farm-saving relief is available to those who need it the most,” Tester said.  “I encourage all eligible Montana producers to contact their local FSA offices and apply for assistance.”

 

Farmers and ranchers affected by the drought are eligible to receive payments through the USDA’s Livestock Forage Disaster Program.  Payments are determined by the intensity and length of the drought for the impacted areas.

 

The Livestock Forage Disaster Program is authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill.  Assistance is available for producers in Garfield, McCone, Daniels, Sheridan, Valley, and Roosevelt Counties.

 

Tester, the Senate’s only farmer, has held several farm bill listening sessions across the state.  Tester will be advocating for Montana priorities in the next farm bill, which comes up for reauthorization in 2018.

 

Last week, Tester sent a letter to USDA urging them to assist eastern Montana ranchers during this drought.

MSGA participates in Farm Bill Listening Tour

from Roundup web by Jordan Hall

About twenty people gathered at the Ullman Center at Dawson Community College at ten o’clock Friday, May 26, to take part in Senator Jon Tester’s Farm Bill Listening Tour. Beginning with the pledge of allegiance led by Tester, the session was led by the Senator and seven other panelists from various public and private agricultural agencies in Montana.

Taking part in the session were Ben Thomas of the MontanaDepartment of Agriculture, Kurt Voss and Justin Loch of MontanaFarmer’s Union, Scott Flynn of the American sugar beet Grower’s Association, Steve Pust of the Montana-Dakota Beef Grower’s Association, Fred Wacker of the Montana Stock Grower’s Association, Don Steinbeisser, Jr. of the Montana Farm Bureau, and Senator Jon Tester (D).

After some words of gratefulness to Dawson Community College for the use of their facility, Tester explained that the purpose of the meeting was to receive feedback from panelists and the audience regarding the upcoming farm bill, and proposed slashes to agriculture funding by President Trump and possible responses from both the House and the Senate. Currently, Trump has proposed total reductions of 228 billion from the Department of Agriculture over the next decade. Cuts include reductions in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the removal of billions from farm subsidies, and a twenty-one percent deduction to USDA discretionary spending. Panelists spoke primarily of how various agricultural programs are beneficial to Montana farmers and ranchers, and gave feedback on the possible ills of reducing federal handouts to the state.

Kurt Voss of the Montana Farmer’s Union spoke first, saying, “Most producers would like a chance to update base acres if possible, but we would be pleased if crop production remained where it is.” Voss explained that the CRP – the Conservation Reserve Program – is at about 24 million acres and has remained steady, claiming that the number works for Montanans.

Justin Loch, also of the Montana Farmer’s Union, shared various concerns as well, saying, “One of the things we need help with in the farm bill is that our farmers need to have their payments [from federal programs] in a more timely fashion, because they have loans and expenses to take care of and are sometimes paid a year later.”

Loch asserted that educating politicians in Washington is important, saying, “One of the big things is when we work with congressmen back in D.C., we need to educate them to understand what it takes financially to keep our farms going. Most of them are not from rural areas and just don’t know the cost.”

Loch suggested an education tool called “Farmer’s Share,” which explains the profit received by the farmer per price of unit of the production. This might help, according to Loch, urban legislators grasp that the price for a product in a grocery store doesn’t necessarily equate to farm profit.

Finally, Loch suggested to Senator Tester that there be a way to help up-and-coming farmers who may need to secure funding but don’t have a track record to demonstrate their ability to farm successfully, asserting, “For beginning farmers and ranchers we need to figure out a way so that we can support them if they don’t have a production history.”

Tester asked Loch for clarification regarding how new farmers secure resources without a production history, and Loch noted that it was a complicated process that perhaps could be alleviated by different regulation.

Ben Thomas of the Montana Department of Agriculture further explained, “The budget from the [Trump] Administration cuts out resources that may be needed for research and other industries. It’s one of the largest grant programs in our department and it would be a real loss to see it go away.”

Thomas claimed, “The Market Access Program is also zeroed out in the last budget proposal. The EU spends much more.” Thomas went on to relay his discovery that in Japanese supermarkets, beef is promoted as being Japanese, American or Australian and that the United States is not marketing it the same way. Aggressively competing in foreign markets is something that Thomas says Americans should do.

“We should rather be doubling or tripling the Market Access Program,” according to Thomas, “to make our products more accessible and desirable in foreign markets. Those funds help our wheat offices and other kinds of offices overseas, for about 30 different industries.”

Thomas also focused on a topic that several on the panel would go on to iterate, “Crop insurance is the basis of risk management, and we should oppose cuts to crop insurance.”

Steve Pust seconded that notion, adding, “Crop insurance seems to be extremely important for our young producers, especially for sugar production in this valley, who may not be as financially secure.”

Tester questioned the panelists, asking, “And crop insurance for beets now works?”

Pust confirmed, “We don’t feel we need a boost in coverage, but we need it to remain to help our younger guys. It’s important for young producers on renewals to have the ability to say ‘I have something to catch me before the bottom falls out,’ and will help them invest in agriculture.”

Pust also agreed with the assertion from Thomas regarding international competition, adding, “We want to make sure our trade agreements are enforceable and think that we should deal on a fair and equitable basis, even in our competition with other nations. We want to be on equal footing.”

Scott Flynn of the American sugar beet Grower’s Association gave his thoughts, “Our sugar policy is a government program that works. No changes are needed, and we are happy with what we have. That isn’t something that you can ordinarily say about government policy.”

“The sugar industry provides jobs to 140 thousand American workers,” Flynn continued, “that provides supplies at a reasonable price. We are the world’s third largest importer of sugar and we can’t produce all that we need.”

Flynn also spoke of the importance of continued accessibility of loan programs.

“Loans from the Commodity Credit Corporation is an important program because it helps bridge the gap between the production expense and the final sale of the sugar,” Flynn stated. “Our sugar policy should help protect us from unfair practices, like Mexico dumping sugar. Mexico dumping sugar at subsidized prices is allowing them to sell it cheaper here than they sell it in their own country, which is an attempt to hurt our industry. So while it seems good for the consumer, it is designed to hurt us in the long run.”

Fred Wacker of the Montana Stock Grower’s Association told the audience, “Most of our cattle people are also farm people, and so the Stock Grower’s Association is very interested in the farm bill.”

According to Wacker, a program called the Environmental Quality Encentives Program (EQUIP) is important and should be continued in spite of possible budget cuts. Wacker said, “The EQUIP program helps Farmers and Ranchers protect our resources. It allows us to provide water to our cattle without tearing up our resources. We would certainly encourage Congress to not do any cutting to that program.”

Wacker went on, “The disaster program also is a very good thing. South Dakota went through the storm of all storms, and that program worked very well. There are two major problems, however. First, the value of the animals has not been raised as the price has gone up, which currently stand at one thousand dollars per head, five hundred to one thousand dollars below the actual value, and secondly, the program is geared for smaller ranchers and smaller cattle feeders. Larger feeders are not eligible to receive those funds, because your eligibility is linked to your gross income.”

“We need stricter controls on beef coming into the country, which may be diseased. Furthermore, we think more funding from the USDA budget should go to state agencies because they are local and more connected,” Wacker noted.

“We need support from you, Senator Tester,” Wacker said while looking at the senator, “regarding Department of Transporation policy. They’re going to mandate electronic logs, and that is going to kill us on freight and red tape. You will have to unload and reload animals every day they’re in transit. It is a serious issue. Perhaps one solution that can help is to specify that for agriculture commodities carrying perishable items, they need exemptions.”

Tester noted that he was working on such an initiative, and said that it was also an education issue, as people in Washington may not understand that agricultural products are perishable and should be treated differently.

An audience member spoke up to suggest that animal welfare should also be addressed, because not getting animals directly to their new location as quickly as possible has adverse effects upon their well being, something with which some in Washington may sympathize.

Don Steinbeisser, Jr. of the Montana Farm Bureau also gave his concerns, “The first thing we want to do is protect farm bill spending. We also need money for rural development and more efficiency in grant approval and timely applications.” Steinbeisser went on to express the need for agricultural funding to not be cut because of the essential nature of help it provides to Montana farmers.

Tester reiterated the need for responsible distribution of federal funds to Montana‘s agriculture, in spite of likely cuts in the upcoming budget.

MSU Extension and USDA offer educational Farm Bill meetings

United States Department of AgricultureBOZEMAN – Montana State University Extension, in partnership with U.S. Department of Agriculture, will be visiting 28 Montana communities this fall to conduct a series of informational meetings about important new programs authorized by the Agricultural Act of 2014.

The meetings will focus on the price-loss coverage and agricultural-risk coverage that will be administered by USDA’s Farm Service Agency and the supplemental-coverage option administered by USDA’s Risk Management Agency through federal crop insurance providers. MSU Extension will explain the new online Farm Bill Decision Tool that will be available this fall to assist producers in understanding their options.

The schedule of meetings runs Oct. 15 through Nov. 12:

  • Oct. 15. Belgrade, 8 a.m. to noon, Holiday Inn Express, 309 West Madison Ave.
  • Oct. 16. Helena, 2-6 p.m., MSU Extension Office, Lewis and Clark County Fairgrounds, 98 W. Custer Ave.
  • Oct. 17. Ronan, 8 a.m. to noon, Ronan Community Center, 300 3rd Ave. NW; Missoula, 2-6 p.m., Guesthouse Inn and Suites, 3803 Brooks Street.
  • Oct. 20. Miles City, 2-6 p.m., Miles City Community College, 2715 Dickinson St.
  • Oct. 21. Sidney, 8 a.m. to noon, MSU Extension Office, 1499 N. Central Ave.; Plentywood, 2-6 p.m., Sheridan County Courthouse, 100 W. Laurel Ave.
  • Oct. 22. Glasgow, 8 a.m. to noon, Cottonwood Inn, 45 First Ave. NE. Wolf Point, 2-6 p.m., Dumont Building, Fort Peck Community College, 301 Benton St.
  • Oct. 23. Circle, 8 a.m. to noon, Community Building, McCone County Fairgrounds, one-half mile southwest of Circle on Highway 200; Glendive, 2-6 p.m., Dawson County Courthouse, 207 W. Bell St.
  • Oct. 24. Baker, 8 a.m. to noon, Exhibit Hall, Fallon County Fairground, 3440 Highway 7.
  • Oct. 27. Choteau, 2-6 p.m., Stage Stop Inn, 1005 Main Ave. N.
  • Oct. 28. Browning, 9 a.m. to noon, Roland Kennerly Building, Blackfeet Tribal Office. Shelby, 2-6 p.m., Coyote Club Eagles Lodge, 137 Main St.
  • Oct. 29. Conrad, 8 a.m. to noon, Conrad High School Auditorium, 308 South Illinois; Great Falls, 2-6 p.m., Montana Expo Park, State Fairgrounds, Trades and Industries Building, 400 3rd St. NW.
  • Oct. 30. Fort Benton, 8 a.m. to noon, Ag Center, 1205 20th Street. Havre, 2-6 p.m., MSU-Northern Student Union Ballroom, 300 West 11th Street.
  • Oct. 31. Malta, 8 a.m. to noon, Great Northern Hotel, 2 S first Street E.
  • Nov. 3. Lame Deer, 2-6 p.m., Chief Dull Knife College, Room 205, 1 College Drive.
  • Nov. 4. Crow Agency, 9 a.m. to noon, Little Big Horn College Cultural Center, 8645 South Weaver Drive; Billings, 2-6 p.m., Big Horn Resort and Convention Center, 1801 Majestic Ln.
  • Nov. 5. Harlowton, 8 a.m. to noon, Kiwanis Youth Center, 204 Third St. NE. Hobson, 2-6 p.m., Bos Terra Feedlot Auditorium, 342 Sale Barn Drive.
  • Nov. 6. Box Elder, 9 a.m. to noon, Jon Morsette Vocational Technical Center, 8294 Upper Box Elder Rd.; Fort Belknap Agency, 2-6 p.m., Aaniiih Nakoda College, Returning Buffalo Building, 269 Blackfeet Avenue.
  • Nov. 10. Informational webinar, contact MSU Extension for details.
  • Nov. 12. Whitehall, 2-6 p.m., Whitehall Community Center, 11 N. Division Street.

For more information, including a printable schedule, visit MSU Extension’s Farm Bill website at http://www.montana.edu/farmbill and Montana FSA’s website at www.fsa.usda.gov/mt. Visit RMA’s Farm Bill website at http://www.rma.usda.gov/news/currentissues/farmbill/.

United States Department of Agriculture

Tester to Montana ranchers: Today is first day to sign up for disaster assistance

Senator spreads the word about recently reauthorized livestock disaster initiatives in Farm Bill

(The following is a press release from Sen. Tester’s office) – Senator Jon Tester wants Montana ranchers to know that today is the first day to sign up for support under the recently reauthorized livestock disaster assistance initiatives in the 2014 Farm Bill.

The five-year Farm Bill passed earlier this year with Tester’s support.  It reauthorizes three livestock disaster assistance programs, including the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) and the Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP), that expired in 2011.  These programs support ranchers who suffered losses in recent years, including 2012’s nationwide drought.

The newly reauthorized programs are retroactive to October 1, 2011.  Montanans should contact their local FSA offices for more information about applying.

Tester, a dry-land farmer from Big Sandy, successfully got USDA to quickly implement the initiatives so ranchers in Montana and across the country could get the assistance they need.

“Today is the first day for Montana ranchers affected by recent disasters to apply for needed assistance,” Tester said.  “I encourage all ranchers to utilize all available resources so we can keep our state’s number one industry strong.”

Tester pushed the President for quick implementation of these provisions because it took more than a year for LIP and LFP to begin after the last Farm Bill became law in 2008.

The Farm Bill includes numerous other Tester priorities, including extending Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) through 2014, support for beginning farmers and ranchers and savings of $23 billion.

More information about the Livestock Indemnity Program is available HERE, about the Livestock Forage Disaster Program HERE and about the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised First Program HERE.

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United States Department of Agriculture

Montana FSA: Livestock Producers Affected by Severe Weather Urged to Keep Good Records

WASHINGTON DC — The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) Administrator Juan M. Garcia, repeated his appeal to livestock producers affected by natural disasters such as the drought in the West and the unexpected winter storm in the upper Midwest to keep thorough records. This includes livestock and feed losses, and any additional expenses that are a result of losses to purchased forage or feed stuff.

“The 2014 Farm Bill provides a strong farm safety net to help ranchers during these difficult times,” said Garcia. “We’ll provide producers with information on new program requirements, updates and signups as the information becomes available. In the meantime, I urge producers to keep thorough records. We know these disasters have caused serious economic hardships for our livestock producers. We’ll do all we can to assist in their recovery.”

In addition to western drought and the early-winter snowstorms, there are a variety of disasters from floods to storms to unexpected freezes. Each event causes economic consequences for farmers and ranchers throughout the United States. FSA recommends that owners and producers record all pertinent information of natural disaster consequences, including:

  • Documentation of the number and kind of livestock that have died, supplemented if possible by photographs or video records of ownership and losses;
  • Dates of death supported by birth recordings or purchase receipts;
  • Costs of transporting livestock to safer grounds or to move animals to new pastures;
  • Feed purchases if supplies or grazing pastures are destroyed;
  • Crop records, including seed and fertilizer purchases, planting and production records;
  • Pictures of on-farm storage facilities that were destroyed by wind or flood waters; and
  • Evidence of damaged farm land.

 

Visit www.fsa.usda.gov or an FSA county office to learn more about FSA programs and loans. For information about USDA’s Farm Bill implementation plan, visit www.usda.gov/farmbill.

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For more information on the 2014 Farm Bill, visit agriculture.house.gov.

 

United States Department of Agriculture

Farm Bill provides USDA resources to help Montana ranchers

United States Department of Agriculture(The following is a press release from Senator Walsh’s office, U.S. SENATE) – Senator John Walsh today announced that critical disaster relief resources to help Montana ranchers recover from the loss of livestock and increased feed cost are now available through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The recently-passed Farm Bill provides permanent disaster coverage, retroactive to October 1, 2011.

“Now that the Farm Bill is law, the disaster relief programs Montana ranchers rely on to recover from devastating fires, storms, and drought are finally available,” said Walsh, a member of the Agriculture Committee. “I will do everything I can to make sure we put the Farm Bill to work for Montana, making sure ranchers know what resources are available and help them access the assistance so they can stay in business and keep Montana’s ag economy strong.”

Montana ranchers with eligible losses can sign up for disaster payments starting April 15th at their local county FSA office.

Sen. Walsh’s offices are available to Montanans to help them assess what assistance they are eligible for. The Washington, D.C. office can be reached at (202) 224-2651, and the Bozeman office, where Walsh’s agriculture caseworker will be housed, can be reached at (406) 586-6104.

More information on the USDA programs is available at:

Senate gets President to implement quick livestock disaster assistance

(The following is a press release from Sen. Tester) – Senator Jon Tester today secured a victory for Montana ranchers when he successfully got the President to quickly implement the livestock disaster assistance programs included in the recently passed Farm Bill.

After the five-year Farm Bill became law earlier this month, Tester called on the President to move forward with the initiatives so ranchers in Montana and across the country could get the assistance they need. 

The 2014 Farm Bill reauthorized the Livestock Indemnity Program and the Livestock Forage Disaster Program – two initiatives that expired in 2011 and are needed by ranchers who suffered losses during the nationwide drought in 2012 and South Dakota’s blizzard in October 2013.

“Getting livestock disaster assistance up and running will let more Montana ranchers get the support they need,” Tester said.  “I appreciate the President making this assistance a priority and will keep supporting Montana’s hard-working producers.”

Tester pushed the President for the quick implementation of the Farm Bill because it took more than a year for the two assistance programs to begin after the last Farm Bill became law in 2008.  The newly reauthorized programs will be retroactive to October 1, 2011.

The Livestock Indemnity Program and Livestock Forage Disaster Program will support ranchers affected by the 2012 drought that led to disaster declarations in 33 states and ranchers hurt by the devastating blizzard in South Dakota that reduced many herds by more than 50 percent.

Ranchers can apply for assistance starting on April 15.

The Farm Bill includes numerous other Tester priorities, including extending Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) through 2014, support for beginning farmers and ranchers and savings of $23 billion.

Tester’s letter to the President, which was signed by 23 other Senators, is available online HERE

(For more coverage, see these stories from Feedstuffs and AgriPulse.)

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