The Roundup -

Gianforte in Sidney to Listen to Local Producers


August 30, 2017 | View PDF

From left to right, Steve Pust, Greg Gianforte, and Mike Waters (Gianforte's director for veterans and military affairs).

Greg Gianforte, who was elected as Montana's representative to the United States Congress in a special election in May of this year, made a stop in Sidney to speak to local leaders in the sugar industry.

Attending the meeting, aside from Gianforte and two of his staffers, included Bill Johnson, a local farmer from Savage who serves as president of the sugar beet Board, along with Steve Pust and Scott Flynn, also local farmers and representatives for the Montana sugar beet Growers. Also present was David Riddle, the secretary and treasurer of the Beet Harvest Association and factory director for his district.

Gianforte began the discussion with the local beet growers by discussing his concerns regarding the Intake diversion dam between Glendive and Sidney. He recalled his efforts to keep the irrigated water flowing into the area, which included making an official request of the Army Corps of Engineers to affirm that the dam permit, which was issued in 1907, is still in place.

The major topic of conversation was the sugar program as laid out in the upcoming Farm Bill. As reiterated by the roundtable of local growers, the current funding program - which provides loans to the sugar industry - is adequate, but letting it shrink would have negative consequences for the area. It was pointed out that the sugar policies have a neutral effect on the federal budget, and is a federal program that actually works.

"My general philosophy is that better is always possible. We want to do by right by the industry, and we can improve upon it," Gianforte added.

Several voiced complaints about how crop insurance works when it comes to the sugar industry, considering that crop insurance rarely covers production cost and pointing out that the rates of reimbursement haven't changed in years.

Gianforte was inquisitive regarding why Mexico has flooded the market with sugar in recent years and how local growers have felt the consequences.

"That's another reason why it's important to keep sugar policy, because without it, we don't have a suspension policy in place to protect our market. In a total free trade situation, it would be difficult," explained Johnson.

There was also a general consensus expressed that the current Farm Bill gets established farmers by just fine, but that it allows very little room for new farmers to get into the market.

Steve Pust added, "I can survive a lower price for a few years, but I can guarantee you some of my younger neighbors cannot. My equipment is paid for, my farm is paid for, but that young producer doesn't have that. That's why we need to protect the young producers, and it's a safety net for them."

Gianforte explained that he and his staff would be accessible to local growers, but that the most helpful thing local growers could do to help him is to be specific in their legislative concerns. Gianforte then gave an example of how county commissioners in Yellowstone County were helpful in naming a very specific Environmental Protection Agency rule that needed to be challenged to help county budgets. He then added, "The more specific you are, the easier it is for me to act."

On a national level, Gianforte expressed his aspirations to help the agriculture industry, which included eliminating or drastically changing the estate tax.

"I've only been on the job eight weeks," Gianforte added, "but we hope to see a lot more done in the near future."


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