By Steve Daines
In Montana, we know how important agriculture is ó to our economy, to jobs and to keeping food on our tables, and on tables around the world.
Iím thrilled to have former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue as our new U.S. secretary of agriculture. I know Secretary Perdue will be a champion for Montana agriculture. Donít take my word for it ó come hear from him yourself when he is the keynote speaker at the Montana Ag Summit 2017 in Great Falls May 31 to June 1.
During a time of historically low prices, we need to find ways to maintain and grow our stateís number one economic driver: agriculture. With over 27,000 farms and ranches in the state, Montana agriculture is a nearly $5 billion a year industry. Montana is also the leading pulse crop producer in the nation. These are strong reasons to be an endless champion of Montana agriculture. With 95 percent of the worldís consumers outside of the United States, itís critical that we expand global markets and find new consumers for Montana products, like beef.
Now you may remember last fall we reached a crucial milestone in opening the second-largest beef import market in the world, China. Last September, China began the process to roll back the ban on U.S. beef for the first time since 2003.
Iíve led two official congressional delegations to China with one topic at the forefront: expanding markets for U.S. products. Thereís a lot of hot button issues in China that we are monitoring right now: cybersecurity, the South China Sea, currency manipulation ó but for our producers, expanding markets is key.
When I traveled to China last month, I hand-carried a red Coleman cooler with me. When I met with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang I opened that cooler and pulled out four beautiful Montana steaks from Fred Wacker of Miles City. When I handed him those steaks, I also showed him a picture of Fred with his cows to point out exactly where that beef was raised. Iíll get Montana beef to China if I have to carry it there myself!
Since Iíve returned from China Iíve continued pushing to finalize negotiations between China and the United States. I led 38 of my Senate colleagues in a letter to President Trump urging him to discuss opening Chinese markets to U.S. beef imports during his conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping in early April in Florida. Iíve also followed up with letters to Secretary Perdue and Premier Li so they keep this issue at the forefront of their minds.
The bottom line is Montanaís economy is linked to our strong agricultural heritage.
In just a few short weeks, Iíll be hosting the Montana Ag Summit, where we will showcase the technological advancements that are changing the way we produce crops and livestock, promote the next generation of agricultural producers and discuss the challenges our producers face as a result of federal policies and regulations.
We have a great line up of speakers:
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue.
U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry.
Phil DiPofi, president & CEO of Northwest Farm Credit Services.
J. Christopher Giancarlo, acting chairman of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
Augusto Bassanini, president and CEO of United Grain Corporation.
We need to work together through innovation, dedication and hard work to keep agriculture strong for the next generation of farmers and ranchers. Thereís nothing more promising than standing on stage at the FFA Convention and looking into a room of over 600 future farmers and seeing the faces of our stateís farms and ranches. I look forward to seeing a sea of blue corduroy jackets at the Montana Ag Summit 2017 as we bring together ag leaders to discuss a vision to keep agriculture strong.
For more information and to register for the Montana Ag Summit, please visit www.agsummitmontana.com.