Fallon County Times: Touring southeastern Montana with Sen. Daines

Eastern Montana was the focus for Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., last week as he toured 13 towns within the region, including Baker, as part of his latest tour to talk jobs, agricultural and economic opportunities and specific concerns in each community.

Eastern Montana was the focus for Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., last week as he toured 13 towns within the region, including Baker, as part of his latest tour to talk jobs, agricultural and economic opportunities and specific concerns in each community.

Baker was the final stop on the last leg of Daines’s tour as elected officials, community leaders and a handful of constituents greeted the entourage for a dinner gathering.

The senator sat down to the table with eight area residents, with those in attendance including City Commissioners Deb Ranum, Steve Baldwin, and Bill Randash, Montana Legislator Eric Moore, Senate District 19 of Miles City, County Advisor Jason Rittal, candidate for County Commission Roy Rost and constituents area farmer Wade Sikorski and Wibaux rancher Warren Nelson.

Daines shared his many experiences being a senator in Washington, D.C. as well as abroad.

He told a story of how he approached Chairman Zhang Dejiang, the top leader of China’s standing congressional body of the National People’s Congress and could have introduced any subject of importance in regards to U.S.-China relations. He ended up plugging the Montana Beef Industry, in attempt to open up China’s borders to importing Montana beef.

“I asured Chairman Dejiang that Chinese consumers would appreciate the superior quality of Montana beef compared to other providers, if only they had the opportunity to choose,” Daines told the crowd.

The senator then addressed questions concerning the upcoming presidential elections, the Bakken boom and the bust cycle in the oilfield, among several other topics.

“How has the decrease in the oil market affected Baker’s housing market?” he asked.

A discussion ensued concerning the phenomenon, which occurs when people lose their high paying job and then struggle to pay for an overpriced house on a fraction of the wages.

Senator Moore also fielded a few questions.

Rost, also a local rancher, discussed new legislation in regards to antibiotic use in cattle and its implications for Montana ranchers.

An informational session was held as the group was served Montana beef, prepared by the Tavern Bar’s staff.

Daines and his staff stayed the night at the Red River Inn and Suites, before heading down to Ekalaka, in the early morning. He referred on his Facebook page to the trip down to Ekalaka as “the end of the map tour,” commenting on how they had lost cell service and had to rely on an actual, foldable map.

The coffee was on at the Wagon Wheel Café to greet the senator as he met with Carter County’s elected officials and community leaders at 7 a.m. After he was seen taking a tour of the Carter County Museum.

Then it was back on the road as the group motored through Alzada on its way to Broadus where Daines and his companions met with the Powder River County Commissioners in their office at 1 p.m.

Senator heads beyond Baker on tour

On the first day Daines’s tour, working his was across the northern Hi-line.

Daines had breakfast with the Rotary Club and local officials at the Great Northern Restaurant in Malta. By midmorning Daines and his entourage were in Glasgow where he met with leaders and constituents at Farm Equipment Sales, Inc., a local John Deere dealer.

Then it was off to Scobey to meet up with the Daniels County Board of Commissioners and elected officials at the local courthouse on Main Street.

By the afternoon Daines was touring the Westby School, an all-inclusive K-12 institution, with a total of 62 students. There he met with faculty, school board members and the school’s 23 high school students.

The senator was impressed with the well thought-out questions asked by members of the student body, which ranged from global warming and gun violence, to a very specific local concern, on the mind of a young girl, hoping to earn a degree in education.

“I plan on becoming a teacher and would like to come back to this area to teach,” the girl stated. “Is there anything you can do to equalize a teacher’s salary, in our area, to meet the higher wages a teacher earns in surrounding states?”

The senator was attentive to the concerns of younger Montanans in this rural setting as they face the challenges of rural education, especially teacher retention and recruitment.

Katie Waldman, press secretary for Daines, kept the tour on schedule as the group motored the 27 miles to Plentywood, where they would meet with local elected officials and community leaders.

The final engagement of the day ended at the United Grain Company facility in Culberson.

Travis Northington, manager of the grain elevator, gave the senator a tour of his facility’s two new bins.

“The senator was glad to see we have extra storage for local produce, because this will help to keep the market open and fluid so local producers can make a living,” Northington said.

The second day of the tour, Oct. 5, began early as the senator and his staff spent the entire morning in Sidney.

The first of three stops was at Sidney Sugars where he met with local sugar beet growers and learned how the sugar factory operates.

“Producing sugar from sugar beets takes people, planning and technology and a double focus on safety and quality,” said representatives of Sidney Sugar.

The company operates around-the-clock for 140 days at a time, churning out 20 pounds of sugar every minute. They make 240 million pounds of sugar and 120,000 tons of agro-products every processing season.

After the “sweet” trip to the sugar beet factory, the destination was the Richland County Law Enforcement Center, where Daines hosted a round table discussion to explore law enforcement needs, coordination and approaches to combating the continuing criminal activity in the Bakken region.

Among discussions was the establishment of a permanent presence by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Sidney.

The FBI has been in force, in a temporary capacity, within that area due to the escalation of crime during the oil field boom. Even since the oil boom has died down in the region, the crime rate continues to escalate.

Daines toured the Intake Lower Yellowstone Irrigation Project Diversion Dam following lunch that is located about 70 miles upstream from the confluence of the Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers near Glendive. He wanted to receive a briefing on the project’s status.

The project, which consists of four districts: Lower Yellowstone No. 1, lower Yellowstone No. 2, Intake and Savage, has three pumping plants within the project that provide water to bench lands located above the main canal that cannot be serviced by gravity feed.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the pallid sturgeon fish as endangered under the Endangered Species Act of 1990. Studies have proven that Intake Diversion Dam impedes upstream migration of pallid sturgeon fish and their access to potential spawning and larval drift habitat. The lower Yellowstone River is considered to be one of the best opportunities for recovery of pallid sturgeon. A number of measures have been taken to remedy the situation including the construction of a rock formation and new-screened headworks. The latest studies and publication of the 2016 Environmental Impact Statement was released in June and is an ongoing concern.

Then it was off to Glendive to tour the new International Trading Company’s new pulse processing facility located north of the city. In 2011, Montana took lead in U.S. pulse crop acreage and now leads the nation for dry pea and lentil production. This new facility adds to the number of great companies already operating in Montana. It gives producers more options in bringing their crops to the market.

Wibaux welcomed the senator at the Wibaux County Courthouse where local elected officials and community leaders came together to share their concerns. According to Commissioner Seth Domek, the main topics discussed in Wibaux were the coal industry and what that means for Montana. They also discussed the Intake issue in Dawson County. Of course they discussed the upcoming presidential election, as well as the other senate races. In attendance was Candidate for District 18, Steve Hinbaugh, and Montana House of Representatives.

Senator Diane’s three-day whirlwind trip logged a sum of 648 miles as he toured 13 cities across Montana. The trip allotted him an opportunity for one on one discussion with regular Montanans and to have a chance to hear the issue on their minds. As Senator Daines walked in the shoes of regular people in southeastern Montana, he was intent on hearing about the important issues at this end of the state that impact their everyday lives. He assured those he met, that he is committed to bringing their voices to Washington D.C.

The final stop of the tour was at the Ashland Ranger District Office where the senator was given a tour of the Ashland District of Custer National Forest. After this final stop, the party was headed back home to Bozeman.