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Montana Ag Network: Debating for the next US Farm Bill

Montana Ag Network graphic updated
Posted at 8:50 AM, Jan 23, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-23 10:50:06-05

GREAT FALLS - US Senator Jon Tester recently held a three-day US Farm Bill Tour across the eastern portions of the state making stops in Glasgow, Plentywood, and Sidney.

The next Farm Bill will be discussed and debated in September in Washington D.C.

“Nobody knows the problems better than the people who are on the ground in production agriculture,” said Sen. Tester.

Approximately 15 producers turned out for the event. Industry leaders who attended included Walter Schweitzer of the Montana Farmers Union, Lochiel Edwards with the Montana Grain Growers Association, Brett Dailey of the Montana Wheat and Barley Committee, Lesley Robinson with the Montana Stockgrowers Association, and Tom Depuydt with the Montana Farm Bureau.

“Farmers like this bill. It by and large is it's not the best bill I've ever seen," Edwards said.

“We would like to see additional funding that would be dedicated to grizzly bear depredation,” stated Robinson.

“A broken system, and it’s a result of about 60 years of a cheap food policy,” exclaimed Schweitzer.

Other topics of discussion came from Dailey, who feels the increased rates of suicide amongst farmers need to be addressed.

“Serious increased suicide rates throughout the nation, which makes this industry look tough.”

Other topics were funding for CRP programs, EQIP well drilling programs, and meat processing.

For McCone County cattle ranchers and wheat farmers Greg and Susan Herden, the concern goes further.

“Do we keep trying to farm or do we get out now before it crashes worse?” Greg Herden asked concerningly.

Greg is an ancestor of homesteaders and his wife Susan, a German immigrant.

Susan compared practices to support for farmers the way her family lost its family farm in Nazi Germany.

It's a take that she feels isn’t too far off due to socialistic practices as she claims a war against farmers is underway.

The two were products of complete destruction from grasshoppers a few years ago and crop insurance didn’t aid their losses.

“When we have the crop inspectors, they are some the representatives of the crop insurance. They looked at everything and they couldn't believe it. They said there was only one other farm up in Malta that has as bad as we did," said Susan Herden. "We should have been paid for 100% loss, correct? Well, we got 75%,” said Susan Herden.

An accountant by trade, Susan prides herself on finding her family the best financial opportunities possible. The farm is in disarray — lack of water, high equipment prices, and market prices. Forced to sell grain when the market didn’t ask for it.

“You have to have a fair market and you have to have competition. The problem is, as farmers, we do not have fair market and we don't. There's plenty of competition, but not in a good way. The competition comes from other countries because the government has been importing millions of bushels from the Ukraine, from Russia, from China.”

A call on federal lawmakers to step up ahead of the next Farm Bill negotiations. It's an impending concern on the livelihoods of those who feed the world.

“Do not have the backing of the government. Makes you feel very alone when they say we're going to import because it seems like they are declaring a war on farmers. That's what it seems like.”