Daines Fights to Give Montana Farmers Certainty in Federally Mandated Grain Inspections

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Senator Steve Daines today fought to secure key provisions for Montana farmers and ranchers and provide farmers greater certainty in federally mandated grain inspections to protect against disruptions like those that occurred last summer at the Port of Vancouver.

Daines successfully worked to include provisions addressing concerns voiced by Montana’s farmers and ranchers in the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2016, which was approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee this morning by a vote of 28-2.

“Montana’s hardworking farmers deserve certainty that their grain can get to market in a timely and efficient way,” Daines stated. “It was encouraging to see bipartisan support for ensuring on-time grain inspections to protect against future disruptions and ensure normal shipments are maintained.”

Daines’ secured the following provisions to ensure on-time grain inspections:

  • Directs USDA to develop and implement prompt and effective contingency plans to ensure that official grain inspection and weighing services resume as quickly as possible should an interruption in service occur
  • In the event of a disruption, the Secretary is required to notify persons requesting official inspection and weighing services to be informed immediately of the nature of the emergency, promptly implement the necessary mitigations to address any concerns, and provide regular updates should any disruption persist 

Following the USDA’s failure to conduct federally mandated grain inspections in a timely manner at the Port of Vancouver for several weeks last summer, Daines has worked to implement reforms to the USDA’s grain inspection process.  Daines recently secured key reforms to the United States Grain Standards Act to maintain continuous required grain inspection for farmers, ranchers and producers. In the House, Daines fought for the immediate resumption of grain inspections at the Port of Vancouver after inspections stopped due to labor disputes.

Bulk wheat is Montana’s largest export. Montana farmers grow and export more than 150 million bushels of wheat each year. More than half of that wheat was purchased by Japan. Other markets for Montana wheat include Taiwan, South Korea, the Philippines and Indonesia. 

Daines also helped secure and supported language to improve and sustain Montana’s robust agriculture sector:

Dietary Guidelines: The bill ensures that the Dietary Guidelines for Americans are solely nutritional and dietary in nature and based on a preponderance of scientific evidence. 

National Environmental Policy Act  (NEPA): The bill includes language increasing the transparency within all agencies of the Department of Agriculture. The agencies are encouraged to disclose costs associated with analyses required by NEPA. 

Agricultural Research: The bill prevents the closure of the U.S. Sheep Experiment Station in Idaho, which provides support for Montana’s woolgrowers. It provides a total of $2.7 billion to support agricultural research conducted by the Agricultural Research Service and land grant and non-land grant universities. This amount includes:

  • $325 million for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative.
  • $244 million for Hatch Act formula funding for research at state agriculture experiment stations.
  • $402 million for Smith-Lever programs to support overall extension service activities.

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service: The bill includes robust funding for Wildlife Services at $111 million. 

Rural Infrastructure: The bill includes $1.25 billion for rural water and waste program loans, the same as the FY2015 enacted level, and $496 million for grants and costs, an increase of $13 million above FY2015 enacted levels.  The measure provides $7.5 billion for rural electric and telephone infrastructure loans. 

National Institute of Food and Agriculture: The bill recognizes the need for research into brucellosis and encourages grants to be made available to study improved management tools for zoonotic livestock diseases.

Rural Utility Service and Coordination on Telecommunications Services: The bill recognizes the importance of the Rural Utility Service (RUS) in expanding access to broadband services in rural America and encourages the RUS and Federal Communications Commission to coordinate on major policy decisions to optimize the use of limited resources.

Broadband Program – The bill expands the definition of eligible service areas and establish new minimum broadband speed requirements for carriers receiving loans from the program. It also directs the Department of Agriculture to expedite the implementation of the broadband provisions of the Agricultural Act of 2014, including the new authority to increase the minimum speeds available in rural communities.