Tim Leeds Havre Daily News email@example.com
Montana’s congressional delegation praised the Farm Bill passed by the Senate Friday, despite criticism by the Bush administration and Charles Conner, acting secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Montana’s Sen. Jon Tester, who farms near Big Sandy, said that after a long debate in the Senate, the bill contains good provisions for the state. “The Farm Bill got the Washington runaround for far too long, and I’m glad the folks in the Senate finally came together and agreed on a policy that’s chock full of good stuff for Montana,” Tester said. “The Farm Bill doesn’t have everything we wanted, but it has a lot of good things Montana needs, and will create a lot of real opportunities.” Montana’s Sen. Max Baucus also said many provisions would help Montana farmers and ranchers. “Montana producers scored a big victory,” Baucus said. “It’s been a long time in the making but I’m pleased with the new Farm Bill that the Senate passed today. A permanent disaster assistance fund is on the horizon as well as implementing countryof- origin labeling. This is an early holiday present for producers in Montana and across the country.” Rep. Denny Rehberg of Montana, who has complained about how long it was taking the Senate to pass the bill and also voiced criticism of some of the provisions of the version passed by the House last summer, Said he is looking forward to working on reconciling the two versions of the bill. “The Farm Bill is critical to Montana's ag producers,” said Rehberg. “So, I was glad to see the Senate passed legislation which includes many programs beneficial to our state’s farmers and ranchers. I’m hopeful we can now move quickly in reaching an agreement between the House andSenate on a final bill so we can send it to the president’s desk as soonas possible.” President Bush has threatened to veto both versions of the bill, saying it costs too much and does too little to cut subsidies, especially during a period of recordhigh prices for ag commodities. While the Senate passed the bill with a veto-proof margin, 79-14, the House vote in July doesn’t guarantee a veto override. It passed in July, 231-191. In a statement Connor released Friday after the Senate vote, he called the bill “fundamentally flawed.” Senators touted many items as improvements in the farm program, including items added by Tester and Baucus, while still listing items they would like to see changed. Some of the items Baucus and Tester listed as benefits for Montana farmers and ranchers include:
A $5 billion permanent disaster fund added by Baucus, which would provide assistance to ag producers during times of natural disaster like drought or fires. Disaster assistance now must be provided on a case-by-case basis.
A provision added by Tester with Baucus’ help requiring the U.S. Department of Agriculture to establish a pilot camelina crop insurance program. Camelina is being explored as a primary crop to provide bio-fuels like biodiesel, which could reduce U.S dependence on foreign oil.
Implement the country-of-origin labeling law by Sept. 30, 2008.
Removes a 5 percent crop insurance surcharge on organic crops.
Keeps seven Farm Service Agency offices in Montana scheduled for closure open through the life of the bill.
Changes counter-cyclical payments for wheat and barley in an attempt to better help producers of those crops during times of low prices.
Allows state-inspected meat to be sold in other states.
Includes new funding to help encourage more young people to get into farming and ranching.
Adds $4 billion to school lunch and food stamps
Sets grant programs to encourage producers to produce alternative energy.
Changes the Conservation Stewardship or Security Program and provides a $1.28 million increase over 5 years.
Boosts bee and other pollinator habitat.
Tester said the bill will help maintain one of Montana’s primary industries. “The Farm Bill isn’t just about making sure Americans have food,” Tester said. “For Montanans, it’s also about good-paying jobs. It’s about healthy families. And it’s about making sure Montana’s agricultural heritage remains competitive and strong in for future generations.”