GREAT FALLS — On October 26, 2023, 60 House Republicans signed and issued a letter to newly-elected Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-LA), urging him to pass a Farm Bill.
The letter was signed by Montana's two US Representatives - Matt Rosendale and Ryan Zinke; click here to read the complete letter.
Rep. Rosendale has been in the limelight as one of the House members who opposed former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) a month ago.
Rep. Rosendale exclaimed, "We finally have a team leader!"
The letter to the new Speaker outlines the need for a Farm Bill for the 92 million acres of farmland represented by the Republican party.
The letter states:
More than 92 percent of our nation’s planted acres are represented by Republican Members. Moreover, in 2022, the food and agriculture sectors contributed $7.4 trillion in economic activity, creating 43 million jobs, $2.3 trillion in wages, $718 billion in tax revenue, and $183 billion in exports, stemming from direct, indirect, and induced output.
Congressman Rosendale says there has been no pushback from members of Congress on the new Farm Bill.
Currently, Congress must pass the 12 Appropriation Bills to secure government funding before November 17, 2023, to avoid a Government Shutdown.
Rosendale urges his colleagues on the north end of the Capitol, in the Senate, to spend more time working on the Appropriations Bills to ensure the government stays afloat.
"We are having a lot of discussions about all of the 80%. The big part of the spending for the Farm Bill, quite frankly, has nothing to do with agriculture, and that's the SNAP programs. The reason that they're having these big discussions about that is because so many additional people were added on during COVID. That's understandable with all the folks that were out of work, but now there is no reason to maintain those levels and they're trying to make sure that they rein in the spending on those other programs so that it doesn't just continue to spiral out of control," explained Rosendale.
In a press release from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, an alliance that advocates for federal policy reform in agriculture, the Senate advanced Agriculture Appropriation Bills.
On November 1, 2023, the Senate passed a Fiscal Year 2024 "minibus" appropriations package, which includes discretionary funding for agriculture and food access programs such as Conservation Technical Assistance and the Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education Program, among others.
A "minibus" is a bundle of appropriations bills coupled into one that covers a number of agendas including agriculture, Food and Drug Administration, and Veterans Affairs.
As work continues on Capitol Hill, Democratic Senator Jon Tester, the Senate's only working farmer issued a statement to MTN News on his frustrations:
“When I travel across Montana talking with Montana farmers, ranchers, and small business owners, folks from Polson to Plentywood all tell me the same thing: we need to pass a strong Farm Bill that provides family farmers and ranchers with the certainty they need to feed this country. On a farm, you don’t get to play games and expect someone else to get the work done for you, so it’s time for Congress to haul its weight here. I’m frustrated that we’re past the end of October and still don’t have this critical legislation done, which is why I’ll continue to work with both Republicans and Democrats and push to get a Farm Bill across the finish line that will do right by Montana producers."
Congressman Rosendale says the passing of a Farm Bill remains a top priority to him. He is hopeful a bill will pass by the end of 2023.