Protecting our Heritage and Investing in Agriculture’s Future
Growing up on the Sieben Ranch, built by my great-grandfather outside of Helena, my dedication to Montana’s agriculture issues came naturally. Working alongside my family, I learned firsthand the dedication ranching requires. That’s how I learned the values of hard work, honesty, and common sense that Montanans value so deeply. I still take those values to work with me every day.
Throughout my years of public service, I’ve made it a top priority to expand the opportunities available to Montana’s farmers and ranchers. Montana’s producers and rural communities are the backbone of our state’s economy, and as a senior member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, and the only member of Montana’s delegation on an Agriculture committee, I’ll continue to provide producers with the support they need and deserve.
In addition, as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, I’m committed to passing comprehensive tax measures that allow Montanans to keep more of their hard earned money. I have also worked to provide tax incentives that will help farmers and ranchers across the United States.
Through my work on the Senate Agriculture Committee, I have had many discussions with Montana farmers and ranchers regarding the Farm Bill. Time and time again I have heard that the next generation of farmers is disappearing – they’re leaving the farms and not coming back. We need more young farmers and ranchers, and their enthusiasm and ideas, to ensure the future of agriculture remains bright. We need to keep our rural schools, business and communities robust. Rest assured I will do what’s right for Montana, and continue to fight to make it easier for those who work the land to continue.
With input costs doubling in the past five years, farming and ranching is riskier than ever. As chairman of the Finance Committee and a senior member of the Agriculture Committee, I will continue to look for common-sense solutions that will keep Montana farmers and ranchers competitive and profitable.
The 2008 Farm Bill: Fighting for Montana's Farmers and Ranchers
As a senior member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, I was proud to represent Montana's agricultural interests when working on the 2008 Farm Bill. I held two Agriculture Committee field hearings in Montana to make sure my colleagues on the committee understood Montana agriculture. I also held dozens of listening sessions with farmers and ranchers, so they could let me know what I needed to do to make the Farm Bill right for Montana.
Reliable Disaster Assistance
I led the charge to create the first-ever comprehensive disaster assistance program as part of the 2008 Farm Bill. In the past, farmers and ranchers sometimes had to wait several years to receive assistance from Congress when agricultural disaster struck. Farmers and ranchers need a dependable safety net when weather-related disasters strike. The 2008 Farm Bill creates a Disaster Trust Fund that will finance five programs to comprehensively address agricultural disasters across the nation. These programs include the Supplemental Revenue Program, Livestock Forage Program, Tree Assistance Program, Livestock Indemnity Program, and Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm Raised Fish.
The Supplemental Revenue Assistance Program (SURE) covers crop losses due to natural disasters. To receive benefits from SURE, farmers must: 1) carry crop insurance on all their crops, and 2) be located in an officially declared disaster county or a contiguous county, or show proof of an individual loss of at least 50 percent. Farmers carrying higher levels of insurance will be eligible for higher payments. The Supplemental Revenue Program covers whole-farm crop losses.
The Livestock Forage Program provides assistance to ranchers and farmers in areas affected by drought. Payments are based on the severity of the drought experienced in the rancher's county. Ranchers in areas with exceptional or extreme droughts will qualify for higher levels of assistance. In order to qualify for assistance, ranchers must be located in a county that is experiences a severe, extreme, or exceptional drought condition, as indicated by the Drought Monitor.
The Tree Assistance Program provides compensation for specialty crop farmers to replant trees and vines that have been destroyed by natural disasters such as hurricanes, freezing rain, or severe temperatures.
The Livestock Indemnity Program provides compensation to producers for livestock that are lost in disasters such as extreme heat, blizzards, hurricanes, and other conditions. Indemnity payments are 75 percent of the fair market value of the livestock.
Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm Raised Fish is a program that addresses unique disasters not adequately covered by any other program within the Disaster Trust Fund. This program will provide assistance for unique or isolated disasters such as floods, tornadoes, hurricanes or Colony Collapse Disorder.
Interstate Meat Shipment
I am an original sponsor of legislation that will allow interstate shipment of state-inspected meat, and I ensured that the 2008 Farm Bill included that provision as well. This will open up new markets for our state-inspected meat packing plants in Montana. There is no reason to keep our small Montana packers from selling their Montana beef, lamb and pork all over the United States. Our beef is good enough for Wyola, and it's good enough for Wyoming.
Colony Collapse Disorder
In working with our beekeepers to address Colony Collapse Disorder, I wrote the Pollinator Habitat Protection Act, which offers incentives for farmers and ranchers to provide a better habitat for our honeybees and native pollinators. Many of the provisions in the Pollinator Habitat Protection Act were included in the 2008 Farm Bill.
I inserted language in the 2008 Farm Bill to halt closure of any Farm Service Agency offices in Montana. This ensures that our farmers and ranchers are not forced to drive long distances to receive the assistance they need.
I was an original cosponsor of The Consumer Right to Know Act of 2001, which provides country-of-origin labeling for beef, lamb, pork, and perishable agricultural commodities. A country-of-origin labeling requirement was subsequently included in the 2002 Farm Bill. In the 2008 Farm Bill, I supported provisions to ensure that country-of-origin labeling does not overburden producers, retailers, or packers. Country-of-origin labeling adds value to Montana's superior products by showing consumers where their meat products come from.
The Wool Trust Fund.
I'm pushing the Department of Agriculture to implement provisions in the Farm Bill quickly. Signups for these programs are have begun. For updated information on signing up for disaster assistance, please click here.
Protecting Montana's Agricultural Industry
Trade For Montana Beef
I have long fought to eliminate unjustified trade barriers to U.S. beef exports. I have made the case to foreign officials that Montana beef is not only delicious but also safe. As Chairman of the Finance Committee, I made it clear to Korean leaders, for example, that I would not allow the Korean Free Trade Agreement through the Senate until they develop a plan to restore market access for all U.S. beef. While I am pleased that South Korea is now importing U.S. beef from cattle less than 30 months of age, I look forward to them taking the next step of accepting U.S. beef from cattle of all ages in the near future.
The Wool Trust Fund
I successfully fought to extend the Wool Trust Fund, a program which helps Montana sheep producers get the best prices for their products and stay competitive in the global market. The fund helps sheep producers identify emerging markets and sell products in high-demand regions worldwide. Montana sheep ranchers' exports have more than doubled since the program was created in 2000.
Tax Relief for Ag Producers
As Chairman of the Finance Committee, I passed a New Manufacturing Tax Deduction. This law allows for a three percent deduction on 2005 taxes for agricultural production income, with the deduction increasing over the next several years to nine percent by 2010.