Needless to say 2017 has been a challenging year for farmers and ranchers in the region. Extreme drought along northcentral and eastern Montana and in the Dakotas has left farmers and ranchers facing tough decisions to cut wheat for hay, go to market early with livestock. To say the least, these outcomes put a farmer or rancher’s livelihood at risk.Immediate action is needed to protect their way of life and our rural communities. For this reason Montana Farmers Union is joining North Dakota Farmers Union in requesting congress authorize the disbursement of direct disaster payments.
In the 1970’s there was a “standing” disaster payments program without declaration of a disaster area. Regular payments ceased after 1981. Since that time ad hoc disaster payments have been specifically approved by congress on a number of occasions.
Before the Lodgepole fire ranchers in Garfield and Petroleum counties were seeking new pasture to graze livestock as the fields were nearly bare. The fire was the final straw for ranchers. We are hearing from members in those counties that the lack of grazing opportunity will force early sale of livestock nearly three months before they would typically go to market. This will most likely flood the cattle market and drive prices down. For those who have lost crops due to drought, crop insurance will help, but will not completely fix the problem.
Regardless of their income for the year, farmers and ranchers must still make their loan payments; pay insurance premiums and property taxes like everyone else, yet when drought or disaster strikes there are no guarantees for income. Coverage from crop insurance helps, but isn’t enough. Montana Farmers Union will fight for family farms and will work with the Montana delegation to get our farmers and ranchers the help they need. We urge you to reach out to your senators and congressman. Tell them to support disaster payments for Montana farmers. The strength of our state’s number one industry depends on it!