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Billings Gazette - House Stalling Senate's Bipartisan Farm Bill

Op-Ed

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Location: Washington, DC

By Senator Jon Tester

This year Montana farmers and ranchers are battling a record drought and reeling from historic wildfires. Agriculture, our state's top industry, needs the certainty and predictability provided by the Farm Bill.

But because of irresponsible decisions by the U.S. House of Representatives, we still don't have a Farm Bill. Instead, members of the House went on a five-week break.

On the other side of the Capitol, however, the U.S. Senate got the job done.

Working together across the aisle, we passed a responsible, long-term Farm Bill on June 21. Our measure preserves a strong safety net for farmers while making long-needed reforms that save taxpayers $23 billion. It's a fiscally responsible plan that overwhelmingly passed the Senate with bipartisan support.

The Farm Bill I supported extends disaster assistance that expired last year. It includes the Livestock Indemnity Program to compensate ranchers for lost livestock. It provides financial assistance to producers who suffer grazing losses due to drought or fire. And it covers producers' losses caused by weather disasters.

Unfortunately, the House stopped our bipartisan bill in its tracks, leaving Montana's farmers and ranchers -- and the certainty they need -- in the lurch. Even worse, Montana's only voice in the U.S. House was part of that effort.

I share the frustration of Montanans who make a living off the land. We deserve better from Congress.

A number of agricultural organizations are joining the call to demand more responsible decisions from the U.S. House of Representatives.

Montana Farmers Union President Alan Merrill says our record drought "and the unwillingness of Congressional leadership in the House to act responsibly and immediately" are "disasters."

As a third-generation dry-land farmer, I know how important long-term safety nets are for Montana's producers. When Mother Nature shows us who's boss by turning up the heat or turning off the rain, Montana farmers and ranchers need a responsible safety net, not irresponsible decisions driven by election-year politics.

This isn't the only irresponsible decision of the U.S. House in recent weeks. The House left for its break without voting on the Senate's bipartisan fix to strengthen and reform the U.S. Postal Service. As a result, Montana post offices are facing service cuts.

The House also failed to take up the Senate's bipartisan reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act--insisting instead on a watered-down version of a bill that should never be watered down.

Politics shouldn't--and won't--get in the way of these important values. Montanans don't care about which party gets the credit or the blame; we only want Congress to put Montana first.

I couldn't agree more. With your input, I'll keep pushing for responsible decisions that serve all Montanans.


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