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By Alex Ross 

Daines stops in Chester on tour of state


Last updated 2/26/2018 at 11:13am

Havre Daily News/Ryan Welch

Carl Mattson points out an item of interest to U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., during a tour of Stricks Ag Friday in Chester.

CHESTER - Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., attended a meet-n-greet at Stricks Ag Friday, where he discussed a recent tax cut package as well as trade, rural broadband and forest management, and toured the company's processing facilities.

The stop, Daines said, marked the 15th of a tour across the state he is taking to hear from business owners and other Montanans about how they are being impacted by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.

The legislation was passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump in December.

Daines said that based on what he has heard from people while traveling throughout Montana, the cuts have already begun to benefit the economy.

"We are already starting to see payrolls being adjusted to reflect the lower rates. Montanans are saying 'Hey I am actually seeing a reduction in my taxes here and a bump in my pay,' "he said.

A lumber mill in Thompson Falls boosted the pay of its employees by $1 an hour and purchased a new high-lift for the first time in 19 years because of the tax cuts, Daines said. A fabricator in Billings, he said, is looking to hire 35 additional employees because of the cuts.

"These are the stories I am hearing across Montana," Daines said.

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and other Democrats opposed the legislation, arguing it will add to the federal budget deficit. Daines, however, said the way to trim the deficit is to curb spending.

The tax cuts, he said, will grow the economy and generate more revenue.

Daines told the crowd at the meet-n-greet that he and 23 of his senate colleagues have signed a letter asking Trump to re-engage in discussions about the Trans Pacific Partnership, also known as the TPP.

Trump pulled the U.S. out of talks with 11 Pacific rim countries last year about the deal. The pact would reduce trade barriers and increase trade between the U.S. and 11 pacific rim nations.

Greater access to overseas markers will allow Montana agricultural producers to increase prices and production, Daines said.

"You look at the tariff situations right now where Japan has some high tariffs for Montana products," he said.

In Japan, he said, the tariff on beef is 50 percent, but the TPP would lower that to about 9 percent. Failure to engage could have broader ramifications.

"If we disengage from TPP, it gives Australia and Canada a great advantage over our producers," he said.

A member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, Daines talked about China last year lifting its 14-year ban on U.S. beef.

During a question and answer segment, Carl Mattson brought up the issue of the need for better cellphone and internet service.

"We don't even have basic 911 service," he said.

Triangle Communication has tried to put up cellphone towers at several locations for towers but they have been stopped from moving forward by Verizon who is not providing coverage, Mattson said. Clear cellphone service, he said, is needed.

Mattson added he would appreciate anything that could be done to help rural cooperatives.

Daines said he has been in touch with rural telecoms and wireless companies. Larger service providers often focus on more densely populated areas because that is where the revenue is, while rural areas are sometimes pushed aside.

Broadband connectivity and cell service, Daines said, are crucial in frontier areas.

"Without technology, as we think about how we are going to engage here as part of the 21st century economy, without connectivity, we are going to get left way behind," he said.

Jillien Streit, co-owner of Stricks Ag, said she is thankful for the work Daines is doing in forest management.

Havre Daily News/Ryan Welch

She said legislation Daines is championing on forest managing is fabulous, and is something that many agriculture producers in Montana often forget about.

Timber mills and people who manage forests, she said, are hardworking families who are stewards of the land.

As recent fires that ravaged the state this summer show, forests will either be managed or they will be burned, Daines said.

"It's either a or b, you tell me what c is, I haven't found it yet. Either you manage your forests or they burn," he said.

He said that forests are building combustible fuel for fire everyday. Managing a forest, Daines said, is healthier, reduces the risk of disease and is better for wildlife.


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