The White House’s proposed agricultural budget and its potential impacts on Montana resources and economy drew fire from Sen. Jon Tester on Tuesday during questioning of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.
The budget proposed by the Trump Administration looks to impose a controversial cut to crop insurance and commodity support by $38 billion over the next decade – cuts that would have a direct impact on the livelihoods of Montana farmers and ranchers, Tester said.
“Times aren’t always good in ag, we know that and, quite frankly, when prices drop, there needs to be a safety net to help manage risk,” Tester told Perdue during the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee hearing.
Tester is a third generation farmer who lost his barley crop a few years ago due to heavy rains that came shortly before harvest. He said farmers and ranchers need protection from Mother Nature and disasters.
During Tuesday’s hearing, Tester also highlighted the proposed 26 percent reduction to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development program, which supports small business loans, water projects and housing initiatives in rural America.
Tester also asked Perdue about Trump’s proposed closure of the Fort Keogh Livestock and Range Research Laboratory in Miles City, which supports cattle producers.
“It has been around since 1924 and it has proven benefits to the ranchers throughout the country, and unequivocally in the arid areas of this country, and it’s set to close down,” said Tester. “I would ask you why would we be doing that? We got more people than we got cattle in Montana.”
Concerns over the importation of Brazilian beef and the risk it poses to the health and safety of America’s food supply also surfaced in Tuesday’s hearing.
Tester introduced legislation to temporarily ban the importation of Brazilian beef following news that meatpackers had been exporting rotten beef and trying to cover it up with cancer-causing acid.