The Roundup -

Tester Chief Of Staff Visits Sidney Sugars


August 15, 2018 | View PDF

Sidney Sugars General Manager, David Garland, speaks with Senator Jon Tester sent his Chief of Staff, Aaron Murphy.

Senator Jon Tester sent his Chief of Staff, Aaron Murphy, to Sidney on August 9 for a brief meeting and tour of the Sidney Sugar Plant. Murphy was received by Sidney Sugars General Manager, David Garland, and other employees of the factory who expressed their sentiments of thanks to Senator Tester and spoke of their concerns regarding the sugar industry.

While gathered for the brief discussion at the plant, Murphy began by explaining, "I don't know the process very well. I know the smell in the air. I know it's Fall when I smell that stuff. I grew up in Cody, Wyoming, where there's a [sugar] plant. I know the industry, but don't know the process."

Tester, according to Murphy, knows agriculture well. Murphy explained that Tester's work in the United States Senate was conflicting with his work back on his Montana farm.

Murphy said, "Ordinarily, August is a recess month, but Senator McConnell said we had to come back, which is good because there's lots of work to do. But it does mean that we truncate his harvest time to work on the farm. And when I say, 'he's the farmer,' if you know Jon, he doesn't hire it out."

Murphy also had some criticism for President Trump. When asked what Tester's position was on the issues related to Trump's trade policy, he responded, "[Tester] is quite concerned about it. One of the things he's trying to do, as a bi-partisan effort, is to say the President shouldn't have unilateral authority to do this. There should be oversight by Congress."

"On July 5," Murphy continued, "he had a round-table to hear about it in Billings and to hear from the agricultural sector and we heard quite loudly about the impacts of the trade war on the agriculture sector, and on building and all the affiliated issues with it. The director of the library in Missoula wrote in to say they just fined a 30 million dollar library construction and the cost of rebar alone went up 700 thousand just because of the uncertainty caused by the trade war. This is an expense that's handed right down to the local taxpayer and people in Missoula will have to pay for it."

"This is really affecting the state, as you know. We're hearing from all sectors, cattle producers and others," Murphy said.

The Sidney Sugar executives explained to Murphy the issues relating to the current market, which included the size of the current grain crop and the need to empty bins. This requires dumping grain in the market, increasing supply and decreasing its value, which puts a strain on those in the industry. Durum (a variety of wheat that is locally grown), in particular, has been a problem, which is increased by competition with Canada. There was some confidence expressed in President Trump regarding his competency at negotiating trade deals.

"If trade deals are going to be renegotiated," Murphy retorted, "they need to be renegotiated to work. They need to be good and strong for Montana, but agreements don't need to be pulled out of if it is going to cause this instability."


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