FB members participate in farm bill listening session
October 21, 2016
Three Montana Farm Bureau members participated in Senator Jon Tester's Farm Bill listening tour October 17 in Billings. Tester is holding listening sessions to hear farmers' hopes and concerns for the new Farm Bill.
Montana Farm Bureau Vice President Hans McPherson, who served on the livestock panel, said one of the difficulties livestock producers have is simply asking for help. "Livestock producers aren't inclined to visit FSA offices to fill out forms. They aren't in the habit of signing up for programs and completing reports. When there is a drought that heavily reduces grazing or haying, and a county is declared a disaster, it's more difficult for them to get immediate assistance. There needs to be some outreach and education so livestock producers can readily use the programs if necessary."
McPherson expressed Farm Bureau's support for keeping the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in the Farm Bill. "I also mentioned the best way to get farmers and ranchers continuing to work on conservation practices is to use carrots, not clubs," the Ravalli County rancher said. "Taxpayers need to realize they must fund conservation practices. Farmers and ranchers are conservation-minded to start with, and if they can get rewarded for their work on land improvement, it's better for everyone and everything."
Jillian Streit, the Hill-Liberty-Blaine Farm Bureau county president who sat on the crop and pulse crops panel, explained rural communities must have the funding to expand value-added concepts in Montana. "This way, farmers and ranchers can capitalize on the products we produce at home," said Streit, who is a partner in Stricks Ag, LLC in Chester. "It's important that federal crop insurance supports the American farmer. It must remain intact for grain and pulse crop farmers. I mentioned farmers need ARC (Agriculture Risk Coverage) and PLC (Price Loss Coverage) payments to be in the same fiscal year. If they can't be in the same fiscal year, at least receive payments earlier, such as during seeding, when a farmer needs it. Often you don't get these payments for about 16 months and by then, it's often too late to save someone's crop or farm."
Megan Hedges, a wheat farmer from Chester, served on the crop and pulse panel, as well. "The top priority on our farm should be maintaining our current crop insurance levels," Hedges explained. "Crop insurance is vital to our survival in agriculture, as well as being the only way new producers can begin farming. I agree with Jill about keeping the ARC and PLC opportunities, along with adjusting how the county yields are derived, as well as the timing of those payments."
"Certainly assistance for rural development, infrastructure and leadership in Montana's rural communities needs to be in the next Farm Bill, too," Hedges noted.
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All three participants found the listening session valuable. "It was educational hearing other farmers and ranchers," noted Streit. "This was a great group with diverse opinions about Montana agriculture. I certainly learned much, and feel humbled to have served on that panel. I appreciated listening to the others. I don't have livestock so it was interesting to hear their concerns. I'm impressed Senator Tester is thinking ahead about the upcoming farm bill."
Hedges agreed. "I appreciated Senator Tester taking time to meet with farmers and ranchers to get input on what's working and what's not. It shows he values our opinions and our industry."
McPherson echoed Streit and Hedges, adding, "I thought it was very worthwhile. I certainly will do it again if asked."
–Montana Farm Bureau