The Montana Grain Growers Association had high praise for the state’s U. S. senators working to continue a disaster program through this year.
Montana’s U. S. Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester joined Sens. Kent Conrad of North Dakota and Tim Johnson of South Dakota, all Democrats, in sponsoring legislation last week to create a one-year extension on U. S. Department of Agriculture ag disaster programs including the Supplemental Revenue Enhancement Program, known as SURE, which provides disaster assistance to ag producers.
MGGA President Ryan McCormick of Kremlin applauded the bill, particularly for extending SURE.
"There has been a lot of national press recently about severe crop losses resulting from the widespread U. S. drought, ” he said in a release Wednesday. “Many Montana farmers, especially those across the southern half of the state, have been caught in the same weather pattern and have suffered from devastating fires, crops not worth harvesting and nonexistent hay and grazing for their livestock. We very much appreciate Senators Baucus and Tester's efforts to bring them some relief.
“SURE has worked very well for our farmers over the past few years, ” McCormick added. “It targets assistance to those who have been hit hard by natural disasters, a situation Montana farmers are all too familiar with. ”
The bill also extends the Livestock Indemnity Program, which compensates ranchers at a rate of 75 percent market value for livestock mortality caused by disasters; the Livestock Forage Program, which assists ranchers who graze livestock on qualifying drought- or fire-affected pasture land; and the Emergency Livestock Assistance Program, which compensates producers for disaster losses not covered under other disaster programs.
The four senators said in a release last week when they introduced the legislation that the programs are needed this year in their states.
“Montana ranchers and farmers are pitching in and helping each other out in the face of devastating fires, and Congress needs to follow their lead, ” Baucus said. “American farmers and ranchers put food on our tables every single day, and they deserve the certainty and security of knowing we stand behind them when disaster strikes. ”
“Conditions in Montana and around the country are as dry as I’ve seen them in a long time, and producers in Montana can’t wait for help in the Farm Bill, ” Tester said. “I hear daily from farmers and ranchers dealing with fire and drought now. We need to get this assistance on the ground as soon as possible. ”
The programs expired this year. Baucus included language in the Senate version of the Farm Bill to make the livestock programs permanent and retroactive this year, and SURE and direct payments, countercyclical payments and the Average Crop Revenue Election are replaced with a single program known as Agriculture Risk Coverage in that bill.
That bill passed the Senate in a bipartisan vote, but the House has not yet acted on the bill.
The senators sponsored last week’s legislation to make sure producers are covered this year for the drought and fires that have swept across Montana and the nation.
The bill is the latest response from Montana’s U. S. lawmakers to the drought and fires.
July 2, Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., sent a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack urging them to open all available federal land and land enrolled in the USDA Conservation Reserve Program to grazing to help ranchers impacted by the fires and drought in the state.
Baucus and Tester have pressed both the Federal Emergency Management Agency and USDA to provide fast response to requests for assistance to disasters this year.
The senators announced Friday that emergency haying or grazing had been approved in eight counties.
Gov. Brian Schweitzer requested ag disaster declarations from Vilsack Friday in Stillwater, Carter, Yellowstone, Custer, Treasure, Fallon and Rosebud counties and the Northern Cheyenne Reservation. He previously declared disasters related to the fires in southwestern and southeastern Montana.
President Barack Obama also has called for help with the drought and fires.
The Associated Press reports that Wednesday the Obama administration called on Congress to pas the Farm Bill to ensure assistance for farmers suffering from the drought.
The administration has declared drought disasters in one third of the counties in the country.