KPAX: Daines, Montana agriculture leaders host roundtable

GREAT FALLS – Montana’s agriculture leaders recently met with Senator Steve Daines (R-MT) in Great Falls to talk about the future of the industry under the Trump Administration.

Sen. Daines discussed a number of issues with ranchers, farmers and livestock owners at a roundtable discussion. A concern felt across the board was the future of trade for Montana’s agriculture industry and export opportunities under the new administration.

“There’s so much uncertainty on the direction that we’re headed, we’re looking at renegotiating NAFTA — President Trump has pulled the U.S. out of TPP — both of those agreements,” said Montana Grain Growers Executive Vice President Lolo Raska. “NAFTA has been very good for agriculture especially for Montana agriculture.”

Raska says a large portion of Montana’s wheat exports go to Canada and Mexico. She says the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) would have benefited growers because the majority of Montana’s wheat is exported to Pacific Rim countries.

While China lifted a 13-year-ban on US beef imports last year, Sen. Daines said he would continue to work with countries in Asia when it comes to Montana exports.

“Getting U.S. beef into China and importantly in Japan — they’re one of our largest trading partners when…related to Montana grain and Montana beef,” Sen. Daines said. “So, these are really important relationships for us to continue to develop and continue to provide fair and free access for our Montana producers,” he added.

Sen. Daines says he would like to see more urgency from the Trump’s administration when it comes to agriculture. He says one big positive is the appointment of former Georgia Governor Sonny Purdue as the next Secretary of Agriculture.

“We need that voice of agriculture as part of this new administration, so important you can never be loud enough when it comes to agriculture,” Sen. Daines said.

Raska told MTN News that the Montana Grain Grower’s Association is taking a cautious approach to the future of agriculture under President Trump but says they will have to wait and see. She added that the issue of trade hits home for many Montana growers.

“Whether that’s beef or grains, pulse crops…and we have a lot of land space, so we grow a lot of crops. We have a low population, we have to go somewhere with that,” Raska said.

Sen. Daines plans to travel to Asia next month to talk with leaders in China and Japan about the future of Montana exports.