Senior US Senator from Montana Jon Tester stopped by the studio to give us an update on some of the things going on in Washington D.C.

Communist China Invasion of the United States

I've got a couple of bills on the land front to deal with that to make sure when the Chinese communist governments involved, they can't buy land in this country along with Russia and North Korea and Iran. The spy balloon is going to be interesting because we'll get briefed today in a classified session as to what they collected, how valuable it was. We'll also get briefed on, if we collected anything off of it, which I don't know is the case on either one. So we'll have that.

China is the pacing threat for this country. There's a lot of focus on the war in Ukraine, and rightfully so. But the truth is, China is trying to replace us as the world's economic power and military power. And they're doing things all the time, messing with the reserve currencies. The truth is what we need to do, Randy, to stop this stuff is we need to become more functional in Washington, DC, which everybody's out there going, really, you know? The truth is that the division is killing us and in the fact that we're talking about this debt limit thing, and we do need to do something about the debt, but you don't drive the economy into the ground with the debt limit to deal with the debt. Let's figure out a way, something like the Simpson-Bowles commission that was put forth that, by the way, I supported but we didn't do anything with it. As a Congress let's do things like get the budget out on time, get that defense budget, that Air Force budget out by the end of September, which is when it's due, and not have these doggone continuing resolutions. Those are the kind of stuff we're going to need to start doing instead of focusing on the stuff that really isn't the real threat out there, in my opinion. We need to focus on China, focus on what Russia is doing, and then move forward.

A magnificent huge Red Devon bull used for breeding on a farm in New Zealand.
Sheryl Watson

Brazilian Beef

Brazil is an interesting area. First of all, if we had mandatory country of origin labeling, all these issues would go away because that give the consumer the right to be able to determine what they're going to get in the grocery store. But Brazilian beef, there's a disease called foot and mouth disease. It's highly contagious, can literally wipe out a herd of cattle in no time at all. We need to make sure that the stuff coming across to the United States is safe because we've raised the best meat, raised the best egg products in the world. A month or two months ago, Brazil had a foot and mouth disease. You're supposed to report it immediately when you get it. They waited over a month, which is against protocol and not the right thing to do. So my point is that we shouldn't be messing with this Brazilian beef stuff, and then let's get mandatory country of origin labeling done and then people can make a determination when they go to the grocery store what they want to buy. I think that most people, the vast majority of people, are going to buy the product made in the USA. One other thing I would say is everything is inspected by the USDA. I think often people think that USDA inspection is an origin label, when it's not. It's an inspection label. It says this meat is safe for you to eat. That's why we're working with Senator Thune out of South Dakota, Senator Rounds out of South Dakota and Senator Booker out of New Jersey, to hopefully get mandatory country of origin labeling done.

Pigs grazing on the grass field.

Product of the USA

That'll help, there's no doubt about that. That's a step in the right direction, let's just put it that way, I really think it would work very, very well with the country of origin stuff. That way people would know if you're if you're buying American beef or Argentinian or Australian or Brazilian or wherever it might be coming from. When we did this in the state legislature, I had a lobbyist for one of the companies that didn't much like the mandatory country of origin labeling come up to me and say, well, what if people prefer lamb out of New Zealand? Well, I mean, I, I don't think they will, but if they do, that's their call. You know, the customer is always right, as they say. So that's one of the things you have to deal with. But I really think that if you look at our beef industry, our sheep industry or hogs, grain, pulses, oilseeds, it doesn't matter. We raise the best there is in the world.

Photo Credit Taylor Bogden
Photo Credit Taylor Bogden

Making America a Production Country Again

If the pandemic taught us anything, is the supply chains aren't where they need to be. Part of that is, there was an outsourcing of industry in the 90s and particularly 80s & 90s and that has come to bite us. We did pass a bill about nine months ago called the Chips and Science Act that'll bring the chips manufacturing back. We depend upon Taiwan and South Korea for that now and we're going to do some other things, moving forward, hopefully, to bring this back into the United States so we don't have to be dependent on China or Taiwan or any other country as far as that goes to make to make critical goods here. Prime example, one of the reasons there weren't cars on the parking lots here a year ago is because you couldn't get chips and there's a lot of chips in a car. There's a lot of chips in everything. So if we can get this thing up and going and, it's in the process now, they're building the buildings now. So the production will start here within the next year or two. Then we don't have to depend on the other countries for the supply chain stuff. We need to do that in other areas too, and I think most businesses out there will tell you, if you have predictability and supply chain, then things not only become a lot more predictable, they become much more affordable. So it's really important.

2024 Senate Campaign

The campaign is going fine. I listened to (WV Senator Joe) Manchin talk here a while back and he hasn't declared what he's going to run for, whether it's senator or president or nothing. One of the things he said, that's absolutely true,

These campaigns start immediately after the last one ended

I always tell people that if you if you really don't like those emails you're getting, you ought to be the candidate because it's ten times worse or 100 times worse if you're the candidate. So look, it's started and the truth is, is it'll be around now for the next 18 months or so, and then they'll start over for the 26th election. If we really want to spend money in a way that could do some good instead of, you know, raising $100 million for a doggone Senate race, let's take that money and put it into highways or bridges or school roofs or courthouse roofs or whatever it might be, and build infrastructure or educate kids, do all sorts of things with it.

Senator Jon Tester Facebook photo
Senator Jon Tester Facebook photo

Farm Bill

That's another one we need to get done by the end of September, by the end of the fiscal year. It just seems like we got done with the last one, but it was passed in 2018. I know that the Senate committees working on the farm bill right now, we just sent some recommendations off to him just about ten days ago that said, hey, this is what we'd like to see in the farm bill, reference price change, making sure that they expand crop insurance to meet the times now because of cover crops and things like that, making sure we keep the conservation programs voluntary and extend out the timelines because oftentimes they don't have the equipment to move the dirt or drill the well or build the fence that needs to be done on a lot of these conservation programs. Then research is really, really important. And research is really super important for folks in production agriculture and making sure that our universities and land grants (colleges) in particular have adequate dollars for research, whether that's in conventional agriculture, organic agriculture or whatever it might be.

Snap Program

I was going off my farm bill listening sessions that we've been having around the state and we usually hear from the production side of things. Snap's another big part of it, making sure that it meets the needs of the people out there that need help, food is important. They're always combined and they should be combined because it helps bring each other across the finish line. I always tell folks that, if you're up against it and you're having a hard time buying food, the SNAP program is really, really important. And democracies work best when people don't have an empty belly. So that's a big part of it to school lunches and the SNAP program, all that is a big part of the farm bill, no doubt about it.

A vector illustration of happy kids playing duck duck goose in a park

Farm Service Agency Staffing Issues

It was brought up in my farm bill listening session. I've had a number of people come up and say, you know what, we just can't keep folks at the farm Service agency, they'll get them trained up and then they'll go somewhere else. The truth is you've got to have wages that are competitive or you're not going to be able to do that. I think it's a problem that's pretty systemic throughout government, to be honest with you. We're having the same kind of issues with the VA, with hiring doctors and nurses, and we're making adjustments. I think we got to get the Department of AG to make those same kind of adjustments and another agency called the Office of Personnel Management to make adjustments. If we're able to do that and be able to make it so the wages are competitive, these are really, really, really good jobs. You get to work with some really, really good people and it's really an opportunity to keep rural America vibrant. But, if you can't get people in these FSA offices to be able to implement these programs, be able to tell the farmers what's in it and how to use the programs, then it doesn't matter what we passed in Washington, D.C., the program's not going to get implemented as Congress intended.

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All facts and information was provided by this Idaho Agriculture Infographic from 2021.

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