FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 19, 2016
Lyndsay Bruno, Communications Director
Office: 452-6406; Cell: 788-8777
Montana Farmers Union Meet with Lawmakers,
USDA Officials in Washington, D.C
Great Falls, MT- Montana Farmers members joined 275 farmers and ranchers from across the country in Washington, D.C., Sept. 11 to 14 for the National Farmers Union Fall Legislative Fly-In. The annual event allows Farmers Union members to meet directly with lawmakers, USDA leaders and other administration officials to discuss issues important to family farmers and ranchers.
“MFU is committed to being a voice for Montana farmers and ranchers. The legislative Fly-In is an excellent way for members to advocate for issues that affect them,” said MFU President Alan Merrill. “We had a very knowledgeable team who spoke from the heart about what they envision for agriculture.”
State members met with lawmakers to advocate for legislative priorities: Farm Bill programs and the farm safety net, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Renewable Fuel Standard and corporate consolidation in agriculture.
In addition, Farmers Union members attended a briefing at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Secretary Tom Vilsack, Chief Economist Robert Johansson, National Resources Conservation Service Chief Jason Weller and Risk Management Agency Administrator Brandon Willis spoke about farm programs. President Johnson and NFU government relations representatives also provided remarks.
“The annual legislative fly-in is an important part of NFU’s ongoing grassroots advocacy efforts,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “Family farmers and ranchers are the best advocates we have for agriculture, and the fly-in is a good opportunity for our members to follow up on the conversations they’ve had with their elected officials during the August congressional work period.”
Member Levi Ostberg spoke on several issues of particular concern including provisions of the next farm bill. “Our family has been farming for three generations. It’s hard with high input costs, even with the family sharing equipment, it’s still unreal what we have to ask the bank every year just to operate. I think the PLC and ARC programs work, but it would be helpful to speed those payments up. Another issue regarding crop insurance is on the malt barley side of things. Currently there’s no provisions to sell insurance for it.”
MFU board member Ben Peterson spoke about corporate consolidation and the potential impacts mergers like the Monsanto Bayer deal will have on farmers and ranchers.“ We are particularly concerned with corporate consolidation. There are already fewer opportunities and mergers like this lead to less competition for products.”
Another issue the group discussed was that of data control voicing concerns with companies like John Deere. “I may own the tractor, but not the data. John Deere has access through a satellite signal to know when, where and what I plant,” said Peterson. “An example of this is the meat packers. I sell directly to a packer. Right now there are currently three packers so there are some options, but if there is a merger and its cut down to two, it will hurt my bottom line.”
MFU members who attended the Fly-In included Ben Peterson of Judith Gap, Levi and Kristen Ostberg of Fairfield and Brian and Barb Mothershead of Circle. Staff who attended the Fly-In included Alan Merrill, Justin Loch, Chris Christiaens and Lyndsay Bruno. Members and staff will continue to work with National Farmers Union and the Montana delegation to advocate for policies including the next farm bill.
Montana Farmers Union is a statewide grassroots organization working for family farmers, ranchers and rural communities through conferences, scholarships and other educational opportunities as well as legislative representation and support for producer-owned co-ops.