Sen. Steve Daines: The future of Montana agriculture

On June 1, Great Falls was the center of our nation’s agriculture conversation as I hosted the Montana Ag Summit, a conversation about the future of jobs in our state’s No. 1 economic driver, agriculture.

We had two of the nation’s top ag leaders at the Montana Ag Summit — the new U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, and the U.S. Senate Ag Committee Chairman Pat Roberts.

The day before the Summit, Perdue and Roberts joined me in Cascade, Montana for a listening session at Rick Bogden’s cow-calf operation. We had several ag groups there including the Wool Growers, Stockgrowers, Grain Growers, U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, the Montana Association of Counties, state elected officials, the Farmers Union and the Montana Farm Bureau around the table for a conversation about the future of agriculture in Montana. We had a hard time hearing each other sometimes because the cows were bellowing so loudly.

Getting all our folks face-to-face and around the table helps Montana agriculture – it was important for the Secretary of Ag and the Chairman of the Ag Committee to see Montana firsthand outside the Washington, D.C. bubble and out in the field.

During our conversation we heard about the future of Montana agriculture and I was reminded about the blue corduroy jackets and the meaning behind the first “F” in “FFA.” It means future. The Future Farmers of America deserve to know that taking over their family farms and ranches is full of opportunity.

With 95 percent of the world’s consumers outside of the United States, we need to focus on gaining access to new markets, like China for our beef. The ban on U.S. beef in China has been in place since 2003 – far too long. Anytime you allow American producers to compete on a level playing field, we win. That’s why I’ve been to China twice since I’ve served as your U.S. Senator, written numerous letters, and pressed our country’s top officials to create a level playing field in China, and even hand-delivered four Montana steaks to Chinese leaders in Beijing

At the Montana Ag Summit, Secretary Perdue announced we are closer than ever to getting there – it shouldn’t be more than a few weeks now before Montana beef is served in Beijing.

Secondly, our farmers and ranchers spend way too much time acting as if they were Harvard lawyers dealing with D.C. regulations. I heard loud and clear at the Montana Ag Summit that we need to roll back these excessive regulations. Our farmers and ranchers are some of the best stewards of the environment because they depend on it and know that and if they don’t protect their lands they won’t have a future in agriculture.

The third issue on the pathway to growth is permanently eliminating the death tax – a generational showstopper. I’ve heard from far too many Montana farmers and ranchers that this is the singular reason they cannot pass on their livelihood onto their children. As we look at tax reform, I am strongly in favor of eliminating the death tax once and for all.

By eliminating the death tax, expanding markets for our producers and reducing regulatory burdens, FFA students and future cow-calf operations like Rick Bogden’s in Cascade can succeed and be strong for future generations.

I look forward working alongside you to keep Montana agriculture on the national map and it’s great to know we have Montana allies in Sonny Perdue and Pat Roberts.