Montana's senior U.S. Senator Max Baucus successfully delivered a big win for Montana, leading the Senate to pass the 2014 Farm Bill calling it "Montana's jobs bill". Baucus proudly announced that the bill is headed to the President's desk. As the only member of Montana's delegation to serve on an agriculture committee, Baucus secured major victories for Montana in his sixth farm bill. These measures - including permanent assistance for ranchers hit with drought and other natural disasters as well as an extension of Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) which offers income for counties with large tracts of federal land - provides certainty for Montanan farmers and ranchers, and works for Montana's large, rural counties.
The bill passed the U.S. Senate 68 - 32.
"Plain and simple, this is a victory for Montana. One of my top priorities has always been to make sure farmers and ranchers have the tools and certainty they need to succeed and this bill delivers. It meant so much to me that we could get this done before I leave office," said Baucus. "Farming and ranching is more than just growing food. It's connecting with the land and understanding the value of hard work. It's Montana's heritage and our way of life. At the end of the day, I'm proud that both sides were able to come together to deliver a strong Farm Bill for Montana."
The bill now awaits the President's signature.
Baucus, who has written 5 previous Farm Bills and is the only member of the Montana delegation on an Agriculture Committee, achieved historic Montana priorities in the 2014 farm bill. These include:
Making Livestock Disaster Assistance Programs he created in 2008 permanent;
Making sure programs for farmers are designed in a way that works for Montana's large, rural counties;
Finding a responsible balance between cutting waste and protecting programs that feed Montana families in tough times;
Making sure the Forest Service has tools to fight Bark Beetle infestation and protect Montana timber jobs;
Preserving the state of Montana's management of logging roads;
Extension of the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program;
Prevented a provision that would have weakened Country of Origin Labelling;
Removed provisions that would have eliminated market transparency and eliminated the enforcement of some Grain Inspection, Packers & Stockyards Act (GIPSA) regulations.
Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT)
Senator Baucus achieved a 1-year extension of Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT). Without the extension of PILT, rural Montana would lose funding for schools, roads, search and rescue crews and other important county programs. Together with Secure Rural Schools (SRS), PILT brought nearly $50 million to Montana counties last year. In 2008, Baucus wrote and helped pass a provision making the PILT program mandatory. The move guaranteed the program would be fully funded through 2012. In 2012, Baucus successfully ushered another one year extension to the finish line. Without that extension rural Montana would have lost funding for schools, roads, search and rescue crews and other important county programs.
Country of Origin Labeling and GIPSA rules
Baucus also successfully removed provisions that would have limited Country of Origin Labelling (COOL) and GIPSA from protecting ranchers and consumers. The House version of the bill contained language that would prevent USDA from combating deceptive, fraudulent, and anticompetitive practices against livestock producers. Keeping that provision out of the bill and preserving the consumers' right to know the origin of their meat products were top priorities for Baucus.