Montana Standard: Sen. Daines got it right with beef deal

It’s safe to say The Montana Standard has not been in lockstep with Sen. Steve Daines on the issues.

We have taken exception to his citation of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s clueless promise to “clean up the Berkeley Pit” in announcing his support for Pruitt’s confirmation. We have not seen eye to eye with him on issues of heath care in particular, and we were recently disappointed that he did not find the political will to co-sponsor a bill to ban the importation, sale and industrial use of asbestos, a lethal mineral that has killed hundreds if not thousands of Montanans.

We were surprised at his initial support of Alabama Senate Candidate Roy Moore, although we were pleased that, given the news developments last week, he rescinded that support Friday after 24 hours of equivocation.

But here’s an issue for which we can only offer Steve Daines the sincerest congratulations for a job well done: The opening of China as a market for Montana beef.

Daines’ record on this issue is one of action, leadership and ultimate success. That’s a good thing for the state.

In April, we reported that Daines hand-delivered four Montana steaks to Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on a congressional delegation trip and lobbied for China to open its borders to U.S. beef.

The following month, Daines announced that an agreement in principle had been reached; in June, the shipments of U.S. beef began.

In September, Daines brought Chinese Ambassador to the U.S. Cui TianKai to a roundtable discussion in Belgrade where trade opportunities for Montana beef producers were discussed. And Daines hosted the ambassador at a (Montana beef) barbecue at Daines’ home.

Last week, we got the news that, one of China’s major retailers, and the Montana Stockgrowers Association have reached an agreement for the sale of $200 million worth of Montana beef, and a further $100 million deal to build a processing facility in the state.

While we are sure many others have had a hand in creating this excellent result, Daines’ role cannot and should not be minimized. He has engaged in effective one-on-one diplomacy, reflecting his pre-political experience opening foreign markets to U.S. goods.

Congratulations, Sen. Daines. You got this one right, and we are grateful.

Now, let’s build that processing plant right here in Silver Bow County, at the junction of Interstates 90 and 15, and near Butte’s soon-to-expand airport.