U.S. SENATE — U.S. Senator Steve Daines secured forest management reforms and priorities for Montana farmers, ranchers and rural communities in the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Farm Bill that passed out of Committee today. Daines is the only representative of Montana on the Committee.
Some of the highlights of the bill include funding for agriculture research critical to Montana farmers and ranchers, crop insurance to help mitigate risks for the agriculture community, programs to support the Montana timber industry and provisions that will prioritize broadband for unserved communities.
The Farm Bill will now head to the U.S. Senate floor, where Daines will offer additional amendments that address priorities important to Montanans, including reforms to fringe litigation threatening the timber industry and reforms to strengthen forest management.
After the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives pass the bill, it will be sent to the President to be signed into law.
“This proposal is good news for Montana farmers and ranchers,” said Daines. “As the Farm Bill moves forward, I will continue to fight for Montana agriculture and for responsible forest management that supports Montana jobs and contributes to healthier, safer forests.”
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The following are some highlights of Daines’ initiatives that were included in the Committee’s bill:
- Daines successfully included a provision that encourages coordination among the Forest Service and state forestry agencies to conduct projects that cross boundaries under their jurisdiction in order to restore forests and reduce the risk of wildfire.
- Daines secured an amendment that allows the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to enter into “Good Neighbor” agreements with counties, as well as states and tribes, to implement forest management projects on National Forests and public lands. These agreements protect water resources, enhance wildlife habitat, restore forest health, and strengthen local economies.
- Daines successfully included the Timber Innovation Act, which will help support innovation and develop new markets for Montana’s timber industry.
- Daines secured amendments to include $15 million in additional funding for the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP) and increase funding for improving wildlife habitat and opportunities for sportsmen. The VPA-HIP program provides competitive grants to states and tribal governments to increase public access to private lands for wildlife-dependent recreation, such as hunting, fishing, nature watching or hiking. The program is entirely voluntary for landowners.
- Daines successfully fought to include funding for land grant universities, including MSU, specialty crops, and agriculture research stations across Montana. Robust ag research is essential to increasing yields, improving crop resistance to disease and drought, and for Montana farmers and ranchers to continue to be able to feed the U.S. and the world.
- Daines worked to protect crop insurance, which is a critical part of the safety net for Montana farmers to mitigate the risks inherent in agriculture.
- The Farm Bill strengthens tribal self-governance for USDA programs and promotes agribusiness and rural development opportunities for Native American farmers, ranchers and communities.
- The Farm Bill supports the Montana Wool Lab within the Wool Research and Promotion program.
- Daines protected the sugar program, which is an essential program to ensure that Montana agriculture can compete on a level playing field against foreign competition.
- The Farm Bill creates a National Animal Vaccine and Veterinary Countermeasures Bank to help respond and prevent devastating animal disease outbreaks.
- The Farm Bill establishes a Military Veterans Agricultural Liaison to improve coordination and communication between USDA and veterans about opportunities that may exist in agriculture for our nation’s veterans.
- The Farm Bill supports conservation programs important to Montana farmers and ranchers such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, the Conservation Stewardship Program, and others that help farmers and ranchers improve the best practices on their lands.
- Daines secured the Hemp Farming Act, which would allow states to regulate hemp production and research and make hemp eligible for crop insurance.
- Daines secured important provisions to expand broadband access in rural Montana and prioritize funds to areas that are unserved with no access.
- Daines secured funding for rural water and wastewater circuit riders, which provide assistance to communities across the state in improving their water and wastewater systems.
- The Farm Bill supports Distance Learning and Telemedicine grants to help reduce substance abuse and provide services to rural communities.