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Defending Montana from a harmful trade war


August 1, 2018

If you pop open a cold Corona this summer, there’s a good chance you’re drinking one of Montana’s most important commodities. Though Corona is brewed in Mexico, much of it is made from barley imported from the Big Sky State.

But today this important market is at risk because of the irresponsible trade war threatening Montana agriculture. Because of tariffs and all the uncertainty in American trade, Mexican breweries are now turning elsewhere for their barley.

For decades, Montana farmers and ranchers worked tirelessly to gain access to these types of foreign markets.

The jobs created by these exports pay 18 percent higher than the average job.

  According to the office of the U.S. Trade Representative, these exports generate more than $1 billion to Montana’s economy each year.

But today these export markets are under threat because of Washington, D.C.’s reckless trade policies, and so are the thousands of Montana jobs.

Of course, we must hold countries like China accountable to our economy, but Montanans are being used as pawns in a trade war, and that’s a threat to our way of life.

  This trade war is driving down commodity prices and putting a financial pinch on agriculture that Montana families haven’t felt since the 1980s.

We are on the brink of losing access to our export markets.

In some cases, it took a generation to establish these export markets, and if we lose them, it will take another generation to get them back.

This trade war is also driving up the cost of doing business.

Steel and aluminum prices are going through the roof for builders and manufacturers.  I have talked with many producers who have put off buying a new grain bin or cattle guard because they can’t afford the one-two punch of falling prices and higher costs.

To try and ease the pain of its trade war, the Trump Administration recently announced a $12 billion disaster relief plan for American farmers and ranchers.

This plan may provide some temporary relief, but it is far from a long-term solution.

Unlike drought, flooding, hail, and other challenges that farmers and ranchers must deal with each year, this disaster is government-made.

I have never met a farmer or rancher who wants to receive a paycheck from the government. They want to earn that paycheck fairly from the free market.

My wife and I took over our family farm shortly before the grain embargo in 1980.

I saw firsthand the permanent impact that policy had on Montana. One after one, I watched my neighbors leave the land, and local businesses weren’t far behind them. Our towns got smaller, our schools got smaller, and our kids and grandkids were forced to leave home to launch their own careers.

I refuse to let that happen again.

Thanks to its people, Montana is still very much a land of opportunity, where hard work, determination and innovation will always prevail. But we can’t let the government force us to play on an uneven field.

I will always hold Washington accountable and I’ll never stop defending Montana against these harmful attacks against our state’s top industry.


Democrat Jon Tester is a Montana farmer and the state’s senior U.S. senator. He is facing a challenge this year from Republican Montana Auditor Matt Rosendale.


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