This is the third post on political ideology. Previously I’ve posted about the US House and Senate, now using the dataset of State Legislatures, here are some details about political ideology in Montana from 1997 to 2007.   That’s a decade of state Legislative data.    The data set only included Montana for those dates even as the entire dataset is from 1993 to 2011.   Tables ranked from most conservative to least conservative.  Montana home to 13th most conservative House and 19th most conservative Senate.

Average House from 1997 to 2007    and       Average Senate from 1997 to 2007

97 to 07 ave House97 to 07 ave Senate

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Average Ideoogy of House from 1997 to 2007 accross the Nation

Ave House 97 to 07

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Average Senate Ideology  in Montana from 1997 to 2007 accross Nation

Senate Comparison

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The average ideology of Dems and Repubs from 1997 to 2007 in the Montana Legislature (higher number is more conservative, lower numbers less conservative)

 

 

Ave House and Senate

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Details on the average ideology of Dems and Repubs from 1997 to 2007 in the Montana Legislature (higher number is more conservative, lower numbers less conservative)

 

Ave 97 to 07 House and Senate

 

 

 

 

 

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From 1997 to 2003 the Legislature worked on policy like deregulation of electricity, massive property tax cuts for telecommunication, top- heavy income tax cuts, tax cuts to the coal mining, and pushing the sale of public lands.  From 2005 to 2007 the Legislature worked on policy like smoking ban in public places, all day public kindergarten, Indian education funding, historic public school funding investments, $100 million homeowner property tax cuts, elimination of business equipment taxes for small operators, and wind power generation. (If you know more, email me.)

The state budget surpluses have also been significantly greater after 2005, than before 2005.   Montana maintained massive budget surpluses even during the Great
Recession.

2005 was the second 50/50 House in Montana politics.  In 2007 the House was 50/49/1.  Montana has a long history of conservative politics in the state Legislature and ranks toward the top of most conservative in the nation.   Given the firebrand political rhetoric of 2011 and 2013, it will be interesting to see the balance of dataset of ideological politics in the near future.

If you see a data or math errror let me know.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Previously I observed the House, here’s how the 113th Senate has ideologically voted.  With 1 as the most conservative and -1 as the most liberal, the data set for first half of the 113th Senate scored an average .025.

Even with the Democratic majority the  average .025 was slightly right of center and similar in ideology to Collins with .038.  The average ideology of the Senate is more right than historically but without scoring Tea party Sens. Cruz, Lee and Paul, the average was at -0.003.

113th Sen SnapObama was ranked on 47 choices while Tester on 253, Bennett on 255, Udall on 248 and Baucus on 253.

With Lee and Paul the 113th Senates’ most ideologically conservative and Senators like Warren and Sanders the most liberal, Tester ranks 58th most conservative, Baucus was 49th, Collins 46th, Murkowski 45th and McCain 37th. Tester voted like other western state Sens. like Bennet, Udall and Begich.

The average Democrat was -.387 while the average Republican was .549.  That’s in keeping with the trend the Brookings Institute shows.  Tester ranked the 11th most conservative Democrat in the 113th Senate at -.277.

 

 

 

Most Conservative Democrats                               Most Conservative Republicans

113 Sen Dem

113 Sen Rep

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let me know if you see a math error.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Uncommon Ground: Stuck with ObamaCare

On March 19, 2014, in Uncommon Ground, by Mike Jopek

 

Stuck with ObamaCare

At the end of the month enrollment for health insurance tax breaks will end. Many oppose the tax breaks Obamacare offers to Montanans who purchase policies at the federal online marketplace.

Since the four-year-old legislation was signed into law, Republicans and their political surrogates still demagogue health insurance reforms and tax breaks for consumers.

More than 4 million people have signed up for tax breaks for health insurance with 22,000 in Montana. That’s good news for hospitals often stuck paying for uncompensated care and insured Americans who pay extra premiums to cover others’ urgent care.

The U.S. House nearly unanimously passed three Obamacare fixes last week. They offer exemptions for companies that hire veterans, or volunteer firefighter’s exclusions, and personal religious opt outs.

Montana is currently refusing the nearly $5 billion in federal funds over five years to expand Medicaid healthcare coverage for people living below poverty. Tens of thousands of Montanans would qualify for coverage, including thousands of veterans and kids.

On the closing days of the last Montana Legislature, Republicans gleefully blocked billions of dollars in federal Medicaid funds to help poverty-earning locals gain access to the hospital.

Locally, newly redistricted Whitefish Sen. Bruce Tutvedt, Republican, and Rep. Ed Lieser, Democrat, worked toward Montana style solutions to Medicaid. The major hospitals in the state support these efforts.

In the Flathead thousands of people, including many veterans, qualify for expanded Medicaid. Primary elections are the stage for voters to view opposing ideology. Local hospitals seeking expanded federal Medicaid have a big stake in the Flathead’s primary elections.

The Republican legislative election chairman recently said that he expects Obamacare to be another big issue in the 2014 elections. Criticizing state lawmakers is not likely to fix the healthcare needs of locals or help hospitals, but Montana taxpayers pay $18,000 per biennium for a legislator’s health insurance.

After 50 attempts to repeal or defund Obamacare, even the House now works toward fixes. Though it’s difficult to forget that healthcare was used as ransom when the House shut down the government trying to defund Medicaid, forcing closure of places like Glacier National Park.

Rep. Steve Daines is cosponsoring an Obamacare fix with Rep. Todd Young that redefines full-time work. The Congressional Budget Office says it increases the deficit by $74 billion and will “reduce the number of people receiving employment-based coverage – by about 1 million people.”

Sen. John Walsh has cosponsored a bill to expand the healthcare tax credits offered to small businesses for employee policies. The CBO has yet to score the bill.

Consumers would do well to temporarily tune out the political healthcare rhetoric and check out the plans and tax breaks. Enrollment ends this month. Major insurance companies like Blue Cross Blue Shield agree that the premium tax breaks can be significant.

It’s not complicated to check how much you can save, either by phone or internet. What you see may surprise you. The federal health insurance subsidy can be thousands of dollars annually and used to purchase private coverage.

In a sharply worded letter to the editor, Missoula resident K. Poody McLaughlin wrote, “Initially we were skeptical. But the numbers don’t lie: our new monthly premium is 48 percent less that our current premium for the same level of coverage.”

The people I’ve talked to around town that enrolled for insurance online or by phone told me that the ACA tax credits are significant. And what’s more politically American than tax breaks?

While Congress is stuck on fixing Obamacare the tax breaks deadline is still the end of this month. Whether people had a preexisting condition or seek savings from upfront federal health insurance tax breaks, it’s simply a good idea to look for yourself.

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-Mike Jopek is a full time farmer working the land in Whitefish.   Previously he was chairman on the Montana House Agricultural committee.   He welcomes feedback at mike@mikejopek.com.

Copyright 2014 www.mikejopek.com All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

 

 

Daines voted more like Bachmann in the 113th Congress than did Rehberg in the 112th.

David Parker is Associate Professor of political science at Montana State.  Parker is often quoted in the newspapers relative to statewide political campaigns.   Recently Parker posted a fascinating blog about the ideological scoring of Congress.

How members of Congress vote relative to each other members has been scored and indexed since the 1st Congress.  Because every vote is scored relative to how other members of Congress vote, the tally offers a more ideological look at how members of Congress vote. Here’s a briefer from Real Clear Politics

You should read his post.  Parker says that Rep. Steve Daines has an index of .712 while the average Tea Party Caucus member is .794.

Last year, Daines voted like the average Tea Party Caucus member .712/.794 or 90 percent.

Given that it now appears secret as to who really is a member of the Tea Party Caucus, and I don’t really think the 1st Congress is much like the 113th; I too downloaded the data set.

Rep. Michele Bachmann founded the Tea Party Caucus in Congress.   Bachmann has a .803 in the 112th and 113th Congress.   Rep. Dennis Rehberg has a .504 in the 112th Congress.

Name

113th Congress Nom1

BACHMANN

0.803

DAINES

0.712

DAINES/BACHMANN

88.67%

Name

112th Congress Nom1

BACHMANN

0.803

REHBERG

0.504

REHBERG/BACHMANN

62.76%

 

Daines voted like Bachmann 89 percent of the time in the 113th Congress while Rehberg voted like Bachmann 63 percent of the time in the 112th.   Daines voted a lot more like Bachmann than did Rehberg.

When Rehberg had .504 in the 112th Congress, the average ideological position ofthe House was .208.  Rehberg was 2.4 time more conservative than the average member of the House.

When Daines had .712 in the 113th Congress, the average ideological position of the House was .207.   Daines was 3.4 times more conservative than the avearage member of the House.

To see what the average ideology of the House change from 1947 to 2012 visit Brookings.

If you think you see a math or data error, let me know.

 

Uncommon Ground: Tester Time

On March 5, 2014, in Uncommon Ground, by Mike Jopek

 

Tester Time

I arrived at 8 a.m. at the VFW Post 2252 in Kalispell as a roomful of veterans and Flathead Democrats talked with Sens. Jon Tester and John Walsh.

Tester was named chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee and was circling the state with the new junior senator from Montana. Tester previously said that he would promote job and educational development, plus target wasteful spending as new head of the committee.

In 2005, I saw tribal leaders gain trust in Tester as he presided over the state Senate and lead the Legislature to implement and fund educational programs. Tester cosponsored the education funding bills then and has since maintained a commitment to rural Montana in Congress.

In Kalispell, Tester spoke of newly passed laws like the Farm Bill and budget. Tester previously told the USDA to quickly implement the livestock disaster assistance provisions in the new five-year farming law.

Tester won reelection with an effective ground game. He proved impossible to politically misrepresent, even with the onslaught of opposition ads. Tester maintained realness in politics, airing an ad showing Montana beef in his luggage as it was X-rayed in travel to Washington.

Tester called it good news for Montana farmers and local eaters to have Walsh appointed to the Senate agriculture committee. Walsh said he would help implement the Farm Bill.

Under the law, farmers find many new federal policy decisions on how best to protect their crops from a climate of sudden hail or super storms.

Two-thirds of Montana’s 28,000 farms produce less than $50,000 annually. Less than 800 farms in the state produce more than $1 million per year. Crops have greatly diversified recently.

The USDA interprets Congress’s intent on the Farm Bill and implements rules to best serve farmers, foresters and hungry families.

At the VFW, Walsh looked as Montana as Butte. Walsh will likely remain a fierce advocate for veterans across the state and nation.

I’ve worked with lots of Butte lawmakers during my time in Helena. They are as hard-working as people come. Butte lawmakers get stuff done. They’re good at the political art of compromise, sometimes to the policy discontentment of fellow Democrats.

Walsh’s main contender in the June primary is Wilsall rancher Dirk Adams. Adams is campaigning more left promoting a diverse platform that says no to the Keystone pipeline. Adams acknowledges climate change, and promotes coal as the energy of the past.

For Adams to win the primary election he must mobilize a large turnout of more progressive voters to counter the union endorsements and field offices now at Walsh’s command.

Sen. Walsh will likely face Rep. Steve Daines plus any Independent or Libertarian candidates this November.

At the VFW, Tester, who serves on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, stood with Walsh. That’s good news. Tester and Walsh both cosponsor the Senate veteran’s bill that opens 27 new clinics and medical facilities, provides in-state tuition, and better jobs, dental, healthcare and retirement.

Montana is in another wild election cycle. Midterms are traditionally low voter turnout but the citizen effort to expand Medicaid to Montana will hugely boost interest.

The GOP is finding Walsh battle hardened and good at leadership. Politically misrepresenting Walsh will prove as difficult as with Tester. Tester and Walsh are about as Montana as one gets.

Walsh said that healthcare is moving in the right direction and “cut and defund” will not help. Walsh liked reforms like not denying coverage to people with preexisting conditions like diabetes and favored the extended age for kids’ coverage on parent’s policies.

At the VFW, Walsh said we should bring service men and women home from Afghanistan. Walsh will likely work hard to help citizen soldiers transition back in to civilian life.

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-Mike Jopek is a full time farmer working the land in Whitefish.   Previously he was chairman on the Montana House Agricultural committee.   He welcomes feedback at mike@mikejopek.com.

Copyright 2014 www.mikejopek.com All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

 

Uncommon Ground: Climate Losses

On February 20, 2014, in Uncommon Ground, by Mike Jopek

 

Climate Losses

Daytime temperatures at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, reached 61 degrees. The same day national news warned about a super storm at lower latitudes and 6,000 miles away in Virginia. News said to prepare for a “catastrophic event,” calling it a “beast of a storm.”

This month’s local climate rally was bitter cold in Whitefish while erratic heat waves pounded the Arctic.

The New York Times reported that weather projections say many ski resorts would experience half as much snow during our kids’ lifetime. That poses an economic impact to a $10 billion industry employing hundreds of thousands of people.

Last August Gov. Steve Bullock asked Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack for weather-related damages from a super hail storm. Farmers growing crops like wheat, potatoes and hay in the Gallatin Valley suffered crop losses from 40 to 80 percent. Some had crop insurance.

The state hail program paid out a record 186 percent of premiums. Crop insurance claims exceeded $14 million in Montana. It was record hail damage.

The Farm Bill law funds $120 billion in crop protection over the decade. Projections for cotton crop insurance rise 44 percent up to $466 million in 2023.

President Barack Obama and Vilsack launched seven “climate hubs” to help farmers cope with changing weather. The federal hubs will be located in rural communities in states like Colorado and Oregon.

The USDA says the climate is changing the growing season, pushing some crops further north. The agency says the cost of drought was $50 billion over three years and fire seasons are two months longer than last decade.

Farm Bill-funded climate losses are small in size compared to super storm Sandy’s cost of $65 billion as salt water poured into New York City subways.

Congress won’t debate climate change. But Congress funds big weather crop or property losses for some farmers and homeowners.

Last week, House Speaker John Boehner scheduled a political fundraiser with Rep. Vern Buchanan in Sarasota, Fla. Waterfront homeowners in coastal areas like Florida were facing big insurance premium hikes.

Bigger homes faced premium increases of tens of thousands of dollars. FEMA announced that new homeowner insurance rates would be delayed two years.

Super storms Katrina and Sandy changed the way insurance companies and banks look at weather risk. More mortgages require costly flood insurance for commercial and residential policies.

Obama is currently accepting comments on his agency’s review of the national pipeline proposed from the tar sands of Canada, through Montana and south.

The agency in part analyzed the greenhouse emissions of how tar sands are transported. With little surprise oil transported by pipeline emits less greenhouse gasses than the rail or vessels. The agency said pipelines are safer than rail for transporting crude.

The number of crude loading and off-loading rail facilities has exploded in the past three years along the backbone and foothills of the nation by the Rocky Mountains.

Who knows what Obama decides on the pipeline? People twice elected him to make these kinds of decisions. But Obama is seeking comments on his agencies’ analysis.

Congress has done nothing to address climate change but funds climate-related losses. And with midterm elections pending and control of Congress at stake, expect little action.

The pipeline decision is not about long-term jobs. Major road construction or hiring teachers offer more jobs. The agency framed the pipeline analysis about efficiently, pitting one mode of crude oil transport against the next. But the political issue is about exporting tar sands.

Few expect Obama to make the pipeline decision this year. Any tar sands pipeline now would likely disenfranchise too many college-aged midterm voters who seek real conservation and more power from energy sources like wind, solar, hydro, or geothermal.

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-Mike Jopek is a full time farmer working the land in Whitefish.   Previously he was chairman on the Montana House Agricultural committee.   He welcomes feedback at mike@mikejopek.com.

Copyright 2014 www.mikejopek.com All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

 

The USDA Rules

On February 6, 2014, in Uncommon Ground, by Mike Jopek

 

The USDA Rules

CBO estimate of the $956 billion Farm Bill shows the funding of agricultural priorities throughout the nation.  Nutrition programs received most or $756 billion over the decade, the vast bulk funded directly in the form of SNAP to provide food for  hungry kids, veterans and families.

The USDA will rule –when it comes to farmers markets or gas stations, on how and where a portion of under $5 per day SNAP funding can be spent by the individual.

The Farm Bill funds $90 billion in crop insurance premium support over the decade in ongoing money, $5.7 billion in new money.

Cotton still gets the most of insurance premium support for farmers.  Cotton’s stacked income crop insurance subsidy is $3.3 billion over the decade.  It’s ongoing funding.  Cotton also gets $558 million over the next two years as a transitional payment, and then a $16 million per five years in trust funding.

The noninsured crops program gained $226 million in funding, more upfront but with $13 million more in ongoing funding over the decade.  The USDA now must rule if this program provides hail crop insurance to help small local farms across the nation who grow crops like broccoli, kale, chard and lettuce.

Payments in lieu of property taxes to rural counties received a one-time funding of $410 million.  These discretionary funds pay the taxes of federal lands in the county and the USDA will provide the funds.  The Farm Bill also newly funds $1.2 billion of ongoing conservation easements across the US and another $454 million in other conservation. Total conservation is $57 billion over the decade.

There are new crop subsidy options for grains from price loss coverage to agricultural risk coverage, uses currently prohibited for farms smaller than 10 acres. There are great new insurance subsidies or much higher trigger point amounts for non-GMO crops like wheat, oats, and barley as well as GMO crops like soybeans, corn and sugar beets.

The insurance risk coverage and price loss options are funded at $27 billion per decade in ongoing funding, bigger weather losses pending.  Agriculture disasters were newly funded at $3.7 billion over the decade in ongoing funding. And supplemental coverage has new funds of $1.7 billion per decade ongoing.  It’s all now part of the commodity program that phased out direct payments.  Total commodity funding now stands at $44.5 billion over the decade.

The $270 million per decade of specialty crop grants and the new $745 million per decade in specialty crop research funding are ongoing funds; there are also 2 funds of beginning farmer funding totaling $361 million, mostly ongoing.  Rules and grants determine if these kinds of programs fund things like public research for non-GMO seed and animal breeding.

The farmers market and local food promotion received $150 million total in 5 year-only funding.   Rules determine how these funds are allocated.  Tech upgrades are $2 million per year for 5 years.

The Farm Bill has many newly funded onetime pilot projects and new and ongoing $4 million per year funding for community food projects.  There are billions of dollars of funding for forestry and energy,with  some new money.

The emergency food assistance to local food banks across the nation is $205 million more per decade; it’s ongoing funding.   And $100 million more for food insecurity nutrition, funded for 5 years.  Better rules for these programs would result in some fruits and vegetables distributed to food pantries.  Rules determine food choices from canned ham to cranberry to lettuce.

If the USDA wants more healthy foods, it will have to implement or change rules on how Pres. Barack Obama and the agency interpret the intent of this new Farm Bill funding law.  A Farm Bill that grows more small farms across the nation is nothing but good for national security.

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Uncommon Ground: Giants Among Us

On February 5, 2014, in Uncommon Ground, by Mike Jopek

 

Giants Among Us

June Munski-Feenan was a giant. I was a foot and a half taller than her, but she always told me how it was. I felt short next to her. She was one of the most giving people I knew. June was a real leader.

Many of my older friends and neighbors have passed. Somehow I visualize neighbors like Gladys and Agnes meeting up with June with huge roast pans full of barbecued ribs. Barbecued ribs became a traditional use of many frozen ribs from the game at the local food bank.

June was great at getting food to hungry families. She ran the North Valley Food Bank for 35 years.

But before the newest food bank was built, June fed the hungry however she could. Over the years she and local volunteers fed thousands of people.

It was June and Gladys who taught me how to butcher turkeys and chickens. But they really taught people how to grow up better.

Back when they were kids, people didn’t have cars. Electricity was not prevalent, television unheard of, and water often hauled to the house. No wireless.

I recall Gladys telling stories of her husband working the icehouses in Whitefish and the mounds of sawdust that kept the lake cubes frozen well into the season. That’s almost unimaginable today.

June’s passing leaves a hole in Whitefish. Undoubtedly there’s a little June in all of us. It’s the next generation’s time to step up. Service builds community, and people build towns.

It was people like June, Gladys and Agnes who kept me more focused during some of my long and sometimes politically confusing legislative days in Helena. During my terms, I pushed hard for property taxes to be capped for people who live in their homes.

June, Gladys nor Agnes ever once asked for that kind of policy. Gladys often would say during local elections that when it came to school bonds, she’d support the kids.

But it’s apparent that the people who built our community should never have to worry over home taxes. It’s not homeowners’ fault that the free market ways of real estate drive Montana property tax policy.

Over recent years I’d seen June at different events or at the food pantry. She was quick with a smile and hug. And she always asked how our boys were doing. By boys, June meant politicos that we mutually knew. I’d tell her that boys like Brian Schweitzer and Jon Tester were doing great work.

She’d smile, tell me to tell them that there are a lot of hungry people out here, and we need more help. But realistically June already knew how her boys were doing. She kept up with politics and local happenings. And June could get stuff done.

June was a nice woman. She did great work. It was giants like June who kept hungry kids in Whitefish fed for decades. She truly was kind, but not many said “no” to her. I can only imagine June’s persistence as she worked two local banks and humbly asked the community to help build a new food bank.

June managed the first distribution of food from the new facility. The building is in front of the Whitefish emergency services center and next to the WAVE. It’s a great building, complete with kitchens and coolers.

I believe that if June was among us today, she’d individually ask a lot of us for help to keep feeding hungry locals. She worked hard at it during her life.

I encourage you to make any sized cash donation to the North Valley Food Bank or simply drop off boxes of fresh fruits and vegetables some Wednesday morning.

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-Mike Jopek is a full time farmer working the land in Whitefish.   Previously he was chairman on the Montana House Agricultural committee.   He welcomes feedback at mike@mikejopek.com.

Copyright 2014 www.mikejopek.com All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

 

Small Local Farm Thanks to Max and Jon

On February 4, 2014, in Uncommon Ground, by Mike Jopek

 

Smal Local Farm Thanks to Max and Jon

My yearlong agricultural legislative policy fascination with the soon to be enacted Farm Bill law has come to an end.   I followed hundreds of newspaper articles on the issue as well as well as three different draft versions of the actual bill and Congressional budget analysis.    I wrote numerous letters to both Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester about the urgent need for better small local farm policy.  In the end, Congress passed a 5 year Farm Bill that cut the national budget deficit by over $16 billion.

I wrote about needed big-weather risk management solutions to help small local farmers across the state that grow vegetables like kale, chard and lettuce as well as public research funding for non-GMO seed and animal breeding.

Mine was but one voice amongst the many small local farmers asking for similar policy reforms.   And low and behold Baucus and Tester heard us.   The deficit-reducing Farm Bill contains $226 million over the decade for noninsured crop assistance as well as $745 million per decade for specialty crop research.

The Progressive Farmer reported that even the conservative Farm Bureau now says, “We are particularly pleased…to provide risk management to fruit and vegetable farmers…”

And Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow publicly praised Tester on the Floor saying “It is nice to have a farmer in the Senate who can give practical ideas and reactions.  This is somebody who has been out there fighting for farmers, small farmers, to be able to make sure they have the same shot to be successful as the big producers.”

The USDA will interpret the pending law, but Tester and Baucus did well by Montana farmers.   I trust that Tester, the soon to be Senior Senator from Montana, will help assure that USDA honors its commitments to small local farmers.   Recall, how Tester helped assure that the FDA interpreted a small farmer exclusion from big agriculture regulations in their rules.

There are many other small farmer agriculture policies in the national Farm Bill like food hubs and farm to school. $150 million per decade accross the nation is funded for farmers market and local food promotion, $193 for plant pest and disease management, $100 million for beginning farmer and rancher development, $200 million for food and agriculture research, $63 million for value added marketing grants, $270 million of specialty crop block grants, $100 million for food insecurity nutrition assistance, and $205 million for emergency food assistance for local food banks.

But in short Max and Jon, thank you for listening and then acting.  You removed most of the nastiest House policy that threatened our natural beef certification and 100% huckleberry programs as well as the most recent House attempts to remove country of origin labeling from beef or allow the direct application of chemicals by waterways.  And getting the House to back off from their proposed draconian funding cuts for feeding hungry kids, veterans, and families is much appreciated by most Motanans.

The Farm Bill you helped craft is good for small local agriculture as well as big agriculture.  Now it’s time to make sure that the USDA follows the intent of the pending law.  It can grow more small local farms across Montana and the nation.

So if you’re a rancher raising cattle or a farmer who grows commodes like wheat or barley, this Farm Bill helps you greatly with risk management from unpredictable weather.  And if you are an eater, this Farm Bill puts food back into law.   With over 300 invididual lobbyists working this single piece of national farm and food legislation, I am most grateful for leadership that listens to the locals back home.

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Small AG and Foodies Should Get Real

On January 30, 2014, in Politics, by Mike Jopek

 

Three acts for the local farm and food movement should undertake to get more real. 

Congress will pass the Farm Bill, and that’s good.  But don’t get too giddy over the pace of agricultural reform.  The farmers market and local food promotion combined with emergency food assistance to the food banks was funded at a total $275 million nationwide over the next 5 years, while cotton received $1.7 billion in funding.

Get real by undertatking these three simple tasks.

1.) Push Senate Majority leader Harry Reid to appoint Sen. Jon Tester onto the opening slot on the Sen. Agriculture Committee.  Tester is the Senates’ only working farmer, and a great Montana replacement for retiring Sen. Max Baucus.  Tester is the realest politician I’ve seen across the nation.

2.) Tell Sec. of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to interpret the pending Farm Bill’s $13 million of ongoing and annual funding for noninsured crop assistance program to allow small local farms insure crops like kale, chard and lettuce from devastating big weather hail.   Tell Vilsack to provide much needed research money for non-GMO seed and animal breeding.  This can really change the face of small local agriculture.

3.) Pick a fight with Industrial Food Image Bureau CEO Buck Marshall.   Marshall is clearly itching for a fight as the arch nemesis of local food.  Marshall recently wrote, “While my clients are out there feeding the world, my organic adversaries are content feeding the one percent –and that just makes me ashamed to be part of the one percent.”  I have challenged Marshall to jet up and fly to our small local farm in Montana this spring for a taste challenge.  I’ll put up our local dino kale -grown right here in Whitefish, up against his industrial kale to see which one is tastier.  Is this guy for real?

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