As United States senator from Montana and as a rancher from Miles City serving as the president of the Montana Stockgrowers Association, we recently took a major step forward last for Montana agriculture. Together, we worked to accomplish a historic trade deal between the U.S. and Japan – one that will benefit Montana’s farmers and ranchers for generations to come.
Farming and ranching is tough enough as it is. This industry isn’t for the faint of heart and making a profit only gets harder if access to critical export markets is restricted and our foreign competitors are given an advantage.
This trade victory is about getting the folks who get up every morning and put in a hard honest day of work, with no complaints or vacation days, so they can put food on our tables.
These are the folks who have been doing this for generations in Montana, and to them it’s more than just a job, it’s a way of life.
For farmers and ranchers across Montana, the folks essential to our economy, being on a level playing field with other Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) nations is critical to competing on the global stage – and access to Japan’s market is key.
The official signing of the U.S.-Japan Trade Deal Agreement is the product of tough negotiations and hard work. And through that process, we made sure that at every level of the negotiations, the voice of Montana’s farmers and ranchers were center stage before a deal was made.
In Montana, we have the highest quality agricultural products and livestock in the world. The Japanese understand the value of our goods, and because of that, our exports are always in high demand. In fact, Montana beef, wheat, barley, and other commodities are the gold standard across Asia. Countries like Japan want our high-quality products. And we want to sell it them.
Japan is the No. 1 export market for U.S. beef, and it accounts for one quarter of all of the United States’ total exports. With just over 1.5 million cattle in our state, this is a tremendous opportunity to for our ranchers to meet Japan’s demand and continue to expand our cattle productions.
Japan buys close to 30 percent of the roughly 200 million bushels of hard red winter, hard red spring and durum wheat produced annually across Big Sky Country. This makes Japan our No. 1 wheat export market.
If this trade deal had not been finalized, our wheat farmers would have expected their market share of wheat sales to plummet $150 million annually.
And that’s just the beginning. This deal creates opportunity for business growth that we’ve never seen before.
This deal reduces tariffs on products such as fresh and frozen beef and pork, provides a country-specific quota for wheat and wheat products, and reduces the mark-up on imported U.S. wheat and barley.
The deal also ensures that, over time, Japanese tariffs on beef and pork products will have dropped from 38.5 percent to 9 percent.
It’s refreshing, and long overdue, to see an administration stick up for the working men and women of our rural and farming communities.
Farming and ranching is an industry where we pray to break even at the end of the year. With new opportunities and new markets to export to, we’re hoping that humble prayer will change. We need an industry that can strive and provide enough work so younger Montanans can continue the rich farming and ranching legacy this great state has.
The President’s trade deal with Japan is what a fair and free trade deal is supposed to look like. It is a monumental step forward in strengthening Montana agriculture for years to come. We are on track for a new era.
For two guys from Montana to be able to stand next to the President as he signed this critical trade deal, it was something we will never forget. It’s been an honor to fight for Montana’s farmers and ranchers through this process, and we are thrilled for the opportunities that this will create across Montana for generations to come.
Mr. President, thank you. Thank you for keeping your promises to our rural communities.
Steve Daines is a Republican Montana U.S. senator and Fred Wacker is the president of the Montana Stockgrowers Association.
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