By Senator Jon Tester
On Monday, thousands of Montana farmers and ranchers will, for the first time in decades, wake up and go to work without the certainty of the Farm Bill.
That's because the U.S. House of Representatives refused to pass a Farm Bill during one of the worst drought and wildfire seasons on record, choosing instead to let the current bill expire at midnight.
Maintaining the Farm Bill is one of the most important responsibilities Congress has because it guarantees the food security of our nation.
Due to the House's failure, Montana farmers and ranchers dealing with this year's historic drought cannot access critical emergency disaster assistance. And without a Farm Bill, market uncertainty will make it harder for Montana farmers and ranchers to get loans and plan for their futures.
The U.S. Senate worked together and passed its Farm Bill more than three months ago - one that provides the certainty and the "safety net" Montana farmers and ranchers need.
Our bill reauthorizes initiatives to support ranchers who lost livestock, forage and fencing to drought and disasters like wildfires or floods. It includes incentives for beginning farmers and ranchers so we can preserve our farming heritage and streamlines critical conservation programs. And just as important, it saves taxpayers $23 billion.
The Senate's plan earned strong bipartisan support because it's a responsible bill that meets the needs of farmers and ranchers across the country.
But the House of Representatives and its leaders, including Montana's own congressman, failed to step forward and do right by Montana's and the nation's farmers and ranchers.
Instead, just before leaving for a five-week break, the House passed the buck with a controversial stopgap disaster assistance program that was roundly criticized by national farm and ranch organizations.
The Montana Farmers Union recently accused the House of "kicking the can down the road" and said it could be a full year before the House acts on the Farm Bill.
Montana's farmers and ranchers don't need political games. They need leaders who stand up and get results. Simply "calling for action" doesn't get the job done when Montanans are suffering through the worst drought in a generation.
As a result of the House's failure, Montana's farmers and ranchers don't have the certainty they need. And they're asking why the House of Representatives and their congressman didn't deliver the leadership.
As the only working farmer in the Senate, I know how Montana's farmers and ranchers drive our state's economy. I also know that politics should never stand in the way of what's best for Montana's agriculture industry or its hard-working farmers and ranchers.
When Congress returns, the Farm Bill will be on a laundry list of important policies we must work together to pass for the people of this entire nation. It will be my honor to join them, putting Montana first.