Montana's senior U.S. Senator Max Baucus led the Senate yesterday in defeating an amendment to the Farm Bill that would have gutted a program that protects Montana sugar beet farmers - and the refinery jobs that depend on them - from volatile markets. As a senior member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Baucus worked to ensure the sugar program was included in the Farm Bill being debated on the Senate Floor this week.
Montana is the fifth largest sugar beet producing state in the nation.
In 2010, Montana cash receipts were more than $66 million.
Nationwide, the sugar program supports 140,000 jobs and nearly $20 billion in economic activity every year.
"This amendment was an attack on Montanan jobs and I won't stand for that," Baucus said. "I spent the day working alongside folks at the sugar refinery in Billings. I've seen how hard they work to put food on the table for their families. So, this fight was personal, and I made sure Montana jobs won. Now, I'll keep fighting to get the full Farm Bill across the finish line."
Baucus secured 54 votes to table Farm Bill Amendment #925, which would have phased out the current sugar program. The sugar program is designed to protect farmers from volatile markets by guaranteeing a minimum price for sugarcane and sugar beet farmers, and the sugar mills and beet refiners that process these crops into sugar.
Senator Jon Tester also opposed the measure.
Baucus has been a long-time champion of Montana sugar beet farmers and the refinery jobs that depend on them:
Baucus defeated a similar amendment to the Senate Farm Bill last year.
In November, Baucus did one of his traditional work days at the Western Sugar Cooperative Refinery in Billings.
Baucus helped usher the Farm Bill, including an extension of the sugar program, through the Senate Agriculture Committee last week. The bill now being considered by the full Senate this week.
The last Farm Bill expired September 2012. Last year, Baucus helped usher a five-year Farm Bill (S. 2340) through the Senate with overwhelming, bipartisan support on June 21, 2012. Unfortunately, the House failed to take action on the bill before the end of the year, leaving farmers with a short-term extension. That extension expires in September 2013.