MSGA advocates for Montana ranchers in Washington DC

The Montana Stockgrowers Association had a successful trip in DC, including meeting Secretary Pruitt(L to R) Back Row: MSGA First Vice President Fred Wacker of Miles City, MSGA Second Vice President Jim Steinbeisser of Sidney, MSGA Director of Natural Resources Jay Bodner, NCBA Environmental Counsel Scott Yager. Front Row: MSGA Communications Director Kori Anderson, EPA Secretary Scott Pruitt, MSGA President Bryan Mussard.



Contact:  Kori Anderson

MSGA advocates for Montana ranchers in Washington DC

The Montana Stockgrowers Association (MSGA) traveled to Washington DC to meet with Montana’s Congressional Delegation and Agency officials last week. President Bryan Mussard of Dillon, Mont.; First Vice President Fred Wacker of Miles City, Mont.; and Jim Steinbeisser of Sidney, Mont. attended the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s Legislative Conference April 10-12.

The MSGA officers met with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, U.S. Senators Jon Tester and Steve Daines, Congressman Greg Gianforte, and senior officials from the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).

Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) were a top priority of MSGA during the trip. They spoke extensively about the need for a permanent fix for livestock haulers, and the trio presented each member of the delegation with a list of minimums to consider.

MSGA had the opportunity to meet with Senator Daines the day before he met with President Trump to discuss the tariffs on China. The Association voiced their concerns over the proposed beef tariffs and explained the effect it would have on Montana’s number one industry.

A common theme of the week was reducing burdensome regulations, it costs ranchers $12,000 a year to comply with state and federal regulations. From the EPA to Interior, it was evident there was strong support for said action. Administrator Pruitt promised to look into streamlining the record keeping system for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) after discussion with the MSGA officers.

In order to best serve the ranchers of Montana, it is a priority of MSGA to work with the Congressional Delegation and Federal Agencies to accomplish the goals set forth by the membership. To learn more about what a membership with MSGA can do for you, please visit


The Montana Stockgrowers Association, a non-profit organization representing nearly 2,500 members, strives to serve, protect and advance the economic, political, environmental and cultural interests of cattle producers, the largest sector of Montana’s number one industry – agriculture.

MSGA meeting with Secretary Zinke.

MSGA meeting with U.S. Senator Jon Tester.

Tester to Washington: Cut the Crap

Senator Cosponsors Bill to Stop Federal Government from Regulating Cow Pies


(U.S. Senate)—U.S. Senator Jon Tester is cosponsoring bipartisan legislation that will stop the federal government from regulating cow pies.

The Fair Agriculture Reporting Method (FARM) Act permanently flushes a regulation that would require small family farmers and ranchers to report air emissions from animal waste to federal officials.

“It’s not just the smell coming out of Washington, this regulation is total crap,” said Tester. “Farmers and ranchers have plenty of real work to do, counting cow turds is not in the job description. This bill will bring some Montana commonsense to a place that’s totally out of touch with life in rural America.”

For nearly 40 years, family farmers and ranchers were exempted from reporting animal-caused air pollution to the government. But a recent D.C. Circuit Court threw out the ranch exemption forcing Montana producers to start reporting air emissions from their animal waste by May 1, 2018.

Tester’s bill ensures that Montana producers will not be subjected to pointless regulation by clarifying that the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act was never intended to apply to agriculture operations.

The FARM Act is available HERE.

Source: Senator Jon Tester

Tester announces “Trade Transparency and Public Input Act”

As trade representatives prepare for next week’s round of North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) negotiations, U.S. Senator Jon Tester is fighting to provide Montanans a voice in the renegotiation of the nation’s largest trade agreement.

Tester’s Trade Transparency and Public Input Act will force the U.S. Trade Representative to create an online public comment portal to ensure that Montanans can provide their input.  Montanans export nearly $600 million in products to Canada annually through NAFTA.

 “Montanans whose livelihoods depend on this trade agreement should be able to provide their input throughout the entire process without having to jump through hoops and navigate red-tape,” Tester said.  “Every day Montana farmers and ranchers, small business owners, and manufacturers sell their goods across the Canadian border, and it is critically important that their voice is heard during these negotiations.”

 Trade officials from the U.S., Canada, and Mexico are scheduled to hold their sixth round of NAFTA negotiations next week in Montreal.

Montanans who provide public comments on trade negotiations are currently required to do so through notices on the U.S. Federal Register, which are usually buried on the website, difficult to navigate, and only intermittently available.

Tester’s bill will require the U.S. Trade Representative to ensure that the portal is easily accessible and readily available to the public, like they are in Canada and Mexico.

Over 40 percent of Montana’s exports are sold to Canada, making it significantly the state’s largest trading partner.  In 2016, Montana exported $275 million worth of lentils, malt, grain, livestock, and other agriculture products to Canada.

According to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, Montana’s total exports have grown by more than 300 percent since 2003.

Tester’s Trade Transparency and Public Input Act is available HERE.

30 Eastern Montana farmers and ranchers to get $2.5 million to offset damage from wildfire

from the Helena Independent Record:

About 30 Montana farmers and ranchers whose property was destroyed by wildfires will get $2.5 million in federal assistance to help rebuild.

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., sent a press release Friday announcing the money, which is from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Environmental Quality Incentive Program.

“After our relentless persistence, Montana farmers will begin to see some relief from what has been a historically difficult summer,” Tester said in the release. “This is the first wave of meaningful resources that will help producers rebuild after horrific devastation. I will keep rattling cages in Washington to ensure every farmer gets what they need to rebuild.”

Montana’s congressional delegation, which also includes Republicans U.S. Sen. Steve Daines and U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte, all called for federal assitance to help offset the impact of the more than 1 million acres that have burned statewide this year. Two fires, the Lodgepole Complex that burned about 50 miles northwest of Jordan, and the Lolo Peak fire, still burning about 10 miles outside Lolo, have been approved for Federal Emergency Management Agency grants that can match state spending up to 75 percent for approved firefighting costs.

Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat, also announced Thursday he was seeking to fast-track additional money from FEMA.

The money Tester announced Friday can be used to assist with livestock grazing deferment, damaged fence and post removal, livestock fencing, water facility development, critical area plantings, and cover crops.

In July, Tester penned a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue asking the USDA to tap into disaster assistance initiatives. He also invited Republican President Donald Trump to tour Montana fires.

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 Secures Major Investments, Advances Montana Priorities in Critical Funding Bills

(U.S. Senate)—U.S. Senator Jon Tester, a member of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, advanced Montana priorities and secured major investments in two critical funding bills.

Tester successfully included amendments to strengthen the ban on Brazilian beef imports and to force the nomination of a USDA Rural Development Undersecretary in the 2018 Agriculture Appropriations Bill.  Tester’s amendments will require USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue to report to Congress on specific provisions regarding the Brazilian beef ban and to restore the position of USDA Rural Development Undersecretary, which Perdue has attempted to eliminate.

“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 critical 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.”

 Tester also secured critical water and wastewater infrastructure investments in the 2018 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill.  Tester helped include additional funding for each of Montana’s rural water infrastructure projects and delivered the first-ever federal funding for the Blackfeet Water Compact, which was 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 added.  “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.”

 Tester worked with Republicans and Democrats to pass both the 2018 Agriculture Appropriations Bill, which funds the Department of Agriculture and other ag initiatives, as well as the 2018 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill, which funds initiatives within the Energy and Interior Departments.

In addition to his amendments, Tester successfully pushed for and secured the following investments and provisions in the must-pass funding bills:

2018 Agriculture Appropriations Bill

  • Fully funds the Fort Keogh Research Laboratory in Miles City.  The President’s proposed USDA budget attempted to shut down the lab.
  • $1.2 billion for the Farm Service Agency, a significant increase over the President’s proposed budget, which would have cut funding for the offices that assist local farmers and ranchers.
  • $550 million for USDA Rural Development water and wastewater infrastructure.  The President’s proposed USDA budget provided $0 for rural water and wastewater infrastructure.
  • Language urging Secretary Perdue to work closely with the Department of Commerce and the U.S. Trade Representative to prioritize a solution regarding unfair Canadian wheat grading practices.

 2018 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill

  • $48 million in additional funding for construction of ongoing rural water projects in the west.
  • $4.8 million for construction on the Rocky Boy’s-North Central Montana Rural Water System, which supplies water to communities, farmers, and ranchers in northcentral Montana.
  • $6 million for construction on the Fort Peck-Dry Prairie Rural Water System, which supplies water to communities, farmers, and ranchers in northeast Montana.
  • $10 million for the Blackfeet Water Compact, which is the first time the account has received federal funding.
  • Language that bars the U.S. Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation from reallocating funding from the Lower Yellowstone Intake Diversion Dam.


The Agriculture and Energy and Water Appropriations Bills are two of the 12 annual must-pass government funding bills.  Both bills were passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee today and will now await a final vote on the Senate floor.

At Tester’s Urging, USDA Halts Importation of Brazilian Beef

Montana Producers Praise Tester for Protecting Consumers from Tainted Meat


(U.S. Senate)– Following Senator Tester’s repeated calls for a ban, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced a suspension of all imports of Brazilian beef until safety concerns are addressed.


“I’m glad to see USDA has listened to our multiple demands to protect American consumers and producers across Montana,” Tester said. “This is a major win for Montana ranchers and American families. Montanans raise the best beef in the world and the government shouldn’t be undercutting them by importing unsafe, even rotten products from foreign countries.” 


Tester has repeatedly called on USDA to halt importation of beef from Brazil, going so far as to introduce legislation to ban Brazilian beef for 120 days until safety concerns could be addressed.


Yesterday, Tester called on Secretary Purdue to halt imports after five Brazilian meat-packing plants were removed from the exporter list.


Tester questioned Secretary Perdue about the importation of Brazilian beef in an Agriculture Appropriations hearing this month.  He also raised this issue with the Secretary face-to-face during his confirmation process.


Montana producers thanked Tester for his leadership on this issue.


“We would like to thank Senator Tester for taking the lead on this issue. The safety of our nation’s food supply is imperative to both Montana’s ranchers and consumers,” said Errol Rice, Executive Vice President of the Montana Stockgrowers Association.


“The Montana Farmers Union would like to thank Senator Tester for his efforts to protect Montana ranchers and Montana consumers and applauds the USDA’s decision to halt beef imports from Brazil,” said Alan Merrill, President of the Montana Farmers Union.


“USCA appreciates the work done by Senator Tester and his staff in reaching today’s announcement on the ban of Brazilian beef imports to the U.S.,” said Leo McDonnell of the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association.  “Senator Tester is a longtime advocate for the U.S. cattle industry and has taken the lead on this issue by providing a strong voice for producers in D.C. The Senator’s repeated calls for action by USDA have been answered and USCA appreciates his commitment seeing this ban through.”

MSGA Applauds News of USDA Halting Import of Fresh Brazilian Beef

Contact:  Kori Anderson



MSGA Applauds News of USDA Halting Import of Fresh Brazilian Beef

The Montana Stockgrowers Association applauds the announcement by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today, to suspend all imports of fresh beef from Brazil due to safety concerns.


“We applaud the decision by USDA to put a ban on the import of Brazilian beef. International trade is an important aspect of our industry, but the safety of our nation’s food supply is imperative to both ranchers and consumers, said Errol Rice Executive Vice President of the Montana Stockgrowers Association. “We would like to thank Senator Jon Tester for taking the lead on this issue; as well as Secretary Sonny Perdue for taking swift action to initiate the ban.”


The USDA release can be found HERE.



Amid Tainted Beef Scandal, Tester Renews Call for Brazilian Beef Ban

Following the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s removal of five Brazilian meat packing plants from its approved exporter list due to safety concerns, U.S. Senator Jon Tester is once again calling on Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue to ban imports of Brazilian meat until safety concerns can be adequately addressed.

 “Our ranchers raise the best beef and pork products in the world,” Tester wrote.  “They adhere to extremely high safety standards and make extraordinary efforts to provide consumers with desirable and safe products.  I believe it is unwise to risk the public’s trust in domestic meat products by potentially allowing harmful imports to make it into our marketplace.”

 The Brazilian beef market was rocked by scandal in March as news reports confirmed that Brazilian meat packers were using a cancer-causing acid in their meat.  This led to several nations temporarily halting the importation of Brazilian meat.

 As a result, Tester immediately introduced a bill to ban Brazilian beef for 120 days until safety concerns could be addressed.

 Just last week, Tester questioned Secretary Perdue about the Department’s plan to inspect Brazilian beef.

 In 2015, Tester successfully blocked the importation of Brazilian beef from regions where foot-and-mouth disease was prevalent.

 Tester’s full letter to Secretary Perdue can be found HERE.

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.