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
406.442.3420/406.214.5680
kori@mtbeef.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

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.

Tester Announces Bill to Ban Brazilian Beef

Senator Calls for Import Ban Following the Sale of Rotten Meat

 

U.S. Senator Jon Tester today announced legislation to temporarily ban the importation of Brazilian beef to protect American consumers from consuming rotten meat.

 

Following news that Brazilian meatpackers have been exporting rotten beef and trying to cover it up with cancer-causing acid products, Tester’s bill will place a 120-day ban on Brazilian beef imports. A 120-day ban will provide the U.S. Department of Agriculture time to comprehensively investigate food safety threats and to determine which Brazilian beef sources put American consumers are risk.

 

“We must take decisive action to ensure no family in Montana or anywhere else in this country is exposed to the danger of deceptive Brazilian beef processors,” said Tester, who butchers his own beef on his farm near Big Sandy, Mont. “Montana producers raise the best beef in the world and are held to the highest safety standards.  We cannot allow harmful food to come into our markets and endanger our families.”

 

I applaud Senator Tester’s decisive action,” said Errol Rice Executive Vice President of the Montana Stockgrowers Association. “The safety and integrity of our beef products is important for ranchers and consumers and we cannot have this dangerous product flooding our markets.”

 

In August of last year, Tester criticized the USDA’s decision to allow Brazilian beef imports to flood America’s markets.  He expressed fears about the safety of Brazil’s product.

 

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

 

Tester, Daines resume effort to overturn lynx decision

Montana senators Jon Tester and Steve Daines have rounded up a lengthy list of supporters for a bill to overturn a federal court decision on lynx protection.

Republican Daines and Democrat Tester join Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, and Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minnesota, on the bill to reverse the Cottonwood decision, which found that the U.S. Forest Service must do a top-level review of new critical habitat for lynx under the Endangered Species Act.

The decision name refers to the Bozeman-based Cottonwood Environmental Law Center, which won the case before the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals last year. The ruling was essentially confirmed when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a Forest Service appeal in October.

“This bipartisan legislation enjoys the support of diverse stakeholders and will protect Montana jobs and common-sense collaborative forest management projects that have been harmed by this court decision,” Daines wrote in an email.

“The Cottonwood decision could lead to endless red tape for folks working on timber projects, trail maintenance and conservation efforts,” Tester added in the same email. “To restore certainty for Montana mills and folks who work in the woods, we need to eliminate these hurdles created by the court and get this bipartisan bill signed into law.”

“I wish they had consulted me first,” replied John Meyer, the lead attorney at Cottonwood Environmental Law Center. “They are seeking to completely overturn or deform part of the Endangered Species Act. That should be of concern to all Americans.”

The list of 33 supporters includes 10 timber products groups such as the Montana Woods Products Association and Washington Contract Loggers; eight conservation groups including the National, Montana and Idaho Wildlife Federations and Wildlife Management Institute; and three agricultural groups including the Montana Stockgrowers and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. It features a number of hunting and fishing groups, such as Trout Unlimited, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and Boone and Crockett Club.

Tom France of the National Wildlife Federation in Missoula added that the legislation was a product of widespread consultation. He disagreed with Meyer about how much change it might impose on the Endangered Species Act.

“Both Daines and Tester have been very careful in crafting a very targeted bill,” France said. “The conversations we’ve had with them are very responsive. And when you see a bill that really proposes significant changes in the ESA, you will know it. It’s not going to sneak up on anybody. The National Wildlife Foundation is very concerned about weakening protections and we’ll oppose that.”

The Cottonwood decision found that the Forest Service has to take a big-picture look at how it protects lynx critical habitat across 12 million acres touching 11 national forests. It grew out of a controversial mishandling of lynx policy dating back to the predator’s original ESA listing in 2000.

A 2006 critical habitat map left out all national forests, but an investigation found that former George W. Bush administration official Julie MacDonald improperly excluded millions of acres of federal, state and private lands. MacDonald resigned and FWS redid its lynx habitat analysis, increasing the cat’s critical territory from 1,841 square miles to about 39,000 square miles.

Daines’ office consulted with the Obama administration Justice Department in crafting the bill, which takes the same position the Forest Service argued before the 9th Circuit. The agency claimed it was more effective to address lynx habitat concerns on a project-by-project basis, rather than redoing full consultation with the FWS.

“When they say they’re upholding the Obama Forest Service, that’s different than the Obama Fish and Wildlife Service,” Meyer said. “And the Fish and Wildlife Service told the Forest Service if new critical habitat is put in place, you need to consult at the agency level.”

Not quite, according to American Forest Resource Council attorney Lawson Fite. While he acknowledged that the critical habitat maps from the original consultation were flawed, the on-the-ground protections for lynx remain in place. Those include checking snowshoe hare prey populations, winter snowpack levels, potential denning sites and the matrix of habitat connectivity.

“Any project that might affect lynx must be analyzed for effects on those elements,” Fite said. “That’s going to happen whether or not you do plan-level consultation. The bill basically insures that those procedures are still followed, but made in way that you don’t do things that don’t have meaningful conservation benefit.”

The Forest Service estimates 80 forest projects are on hold because of legal challenges based on the Cottontwood decision in Regions 1, 2 and 4. Region 1 challenges include the East Reservoir Restoration Project in the Kootenai National Forest and the Colt-Summit Restoration and Fuels Reduction Project in the Lolo National Forest.

Those Region 1 challenges in lynx critical habitat accounted for about 29 percent of the planned fiscal year 2017 timber harvest volume, amounting to 95.3 million board-feet of lumber on 17,764 acres.

Source: Missoulian

Tester Skewers Administration’s Brazilian Beef Decision

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

August 4, 2016

 

Marneé Banks | 202.604.5521

Dave Kuntz     | 202.224.8544

Luke Jackson  | 406.702.5484

 

Tester Skewers Administration’s Brazilian Beef Decision

Senator Stands Up for Montana Agriculture Producers and Consumers

 

(Big Sandy, MT) – Senator Jon Tester called on the U.S. Department of Agriculture to increase transparency and address safety concerns regarding the importation of Brazilian beef.

 

This week USDA announced a policy change allowing Brazil to send raw beef to the United States.  Tester sent a letter to Secretary Vilsack on behalf of Montana consumers and hard-working cattlemen and women outlining his concerns about Brazil’s food safety standards and its meat industry’s recent history of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD).  Tester pushed the USDA for answers on what the Administration has done to improve the emergency response to an animal disease outbreak such as FMD.  Additionally, he called for more transparency in how this decision was made and how these food safety standards would be verified in the future.

 

“Montana cattle producers have the best beef around, and they are held to the highest food safety standards,” Tester wrote.  “We should expect no less from Brazilian producers.”

 

In light of this decision, Brazil is expected to send 60,000 tons of beef to the United States this year.

 

“Montana ranchers cannot afford to jeopardize our state’s world renowned cattle herds to possible Foot and Mouth Disease exposure as a result of USDA’s recent announcement to import fresh chilled or frozen beef from Brazil,” said Errol Rice of the Montana Stockgrowers.  “We appreciate Senator Tester’s urgent inquiry into USDA’s decision and we look forward to working together to ensure that all possible risks to FMD have been thoroughly analyzed and addressed with rigorous scientific protocol by USDA.”

 

“USDA’s announcement falls in line with the number of obligations currently directed by agreements within the World Trade Organization (WTO) to the US.  The problem is that too often Brazil adheres to a “do as I say- not as I do” type of policy.  Brazil has a lengthy history of WTO violations that continue to undercut all sectors of US production agriculture.  Despite this, Brazil is the first to leverage the WTO when it works in their favor,” said Leo McDonnell, Director Emeritus of the US Cattleman’s Association.  “Senator Tester’s letter and ongoing efforts to combat such abuses ensures that both Montana and US cattle producers will not be run roughshod over by a country that continues to fail on every level in living up to international commitments.”

 

Tester’s letter to Secretary Vilsack can be found HERE.

MSGA Leadership Travels to Washington D.C. to Advocate Top Priorities Facing Montana’s Cattle Industry

Helena, MT – A leadership delegation from the Montana Stockgrowers Association traveled to Washington D.C. April 12-14 to lobby numerous issues with Congress and Federal agencies. These issues included: Eradication of Brucellosis, Country of Origin Labeling for U.S. Beef, stopping the proposed federal bison quarantine facility, federal water regulations, sage grouse, endangered species, Antiquities Act (i.e. monument designations) reform and international trade.

MSGA brought forth tactical ideas to eliminate the threat of Brucellosis expansion beyond Montana’s Designated Surveillance Area (DSA). In a meeting with Dr. T.J. Myers, Associate Deputy Administrator with USDA-APHIS Veterinary Services MSGA requested that Brucella Abortus be removed from the USDA and Center for Disease Control’s select bioterrorism agents list. This would allow for more research to develop a more effective vaccine for bison, elk and cattle. MSGA also requested continued federal funding support for Montana’s DSA implementation but to also develop a renewed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Montana, Wyoming and Idaho along with USDA and the National Park Service that commits to the elimination of brucellosis from the Greater Yellowstone Area. Montana’s DSA is not a long-term solution to brucellosis management.

MSGA met with senior staff on the U.S. House Agriculture Committee, chaired by Congressman K. Michael Conaway (R-TX) to discuss possible industry led alternatives to the recently repealed mandatory country of origin labeling of beef. In particular MSGA has policy to work on the development of a comprehensive, broad-based industry led labeling program for U.S. beef.

MSGA has a strong relationship with Montana’s Public Lands Council and Association of State Grazing Districts to work on federal land grazing matters.  MSGA and PLC met with Neil Kornze, Director of BLM, and requested that BLM reconsider the decision to allow year-round bison grazing on Montana’s Flat Creek Allotment located in Phillips County.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was another top priority for MSGA while in D.C. It was universally felt by Montana’s Congressional delegation that a vote on TPP would not happen until after the 2016 election, however MSGA feels that TPP should be a top priority for Congress regardless of political elections. The TPP will remove tariff barriers in some of our major export markets including Japan – one of our largest beef export markets. The TPP is expected to increase cash receipts and net exports from Montana by $86.9 million and $56.6 million per year respectively.

It is vitally important for Montana’s ranching community to have representation in Washington, D.C. and MSGA was very pleased with the outcome of the many high-level meetings that were held with members of Congress and Administration officials. MSGA would also like to thank Senator Tester, Senator Daines and Representative Zinke and their professional staff for their time and commitment to Montana’s cattle and ranching industry.

house ag committee

L to R back row: Senior House Agriculture Commmitte Staff Christine Heggem; Public Lands Council Vicki Olson – Malta, MT; Montana Cattlewomen Wanda Pinnow – Baker, MT; MSGA President Gene Curry – Valier, MT; MSGA Director of Natural Resources Jay Bodner – Helena, MT; MSGA Executive Vice President Errol Rice – Helena, MT. Front row: MSGA 1st Vice President Bryan Mussard – Dillon, MT; MSGA 2nd Vice President Fred Wacker – Miles City, MT.