To the Editor:
As U.S. Senator from Montana, and as a rancher from Miles City serving as the president of the Montana Stockgrowers Association, we took a major step forward last week for Montana agriculture. Together, we worked to accomplish a historic trade deal between the U.S. and Japan ó one that will benefit Montanaís farmers and ranchers for generations to come.
Farming and ranching is tough enough as it is. This industry isnít 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 deal is a victory for 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 done this for generations in Montana, and to them itís more than just a job, itís 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.
The signing of the U.S.-Japan Trade Deal Agreement is the product of tough negotiations and hard work. We made sure that the voice of Montanaís farmers and ranchers were center stage.
In Montana, we boast 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 to them.
Japan is the No. 1 export market for U.S. beef, and it accounts for one quarter of the United Statesí total exports. With more than 1.5 million cattle in our state, this deal is a tremendous opportunity for our ranchers to meet Japanís demand while expanding our production.
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 primary wheat export market. If this trade deal had not been finalized, our wheat farmers expected their market share of wheat sales to plummet $150 million annually.
This deal creates opportunity for business growth that weíve never seen before.
It reduces tariffs on products such as fresh and frozen beef and pork, provides a country-specific quota for wheat and wheat products, and lessens 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 drop from 38.5 to 9 percent.
Itís refreshing, and long overdue, to see an administration stick up for the workingmen and women of our rural, farming communities.
This is an industry where we pray to break even at the end of the year. With new opportunities and markets, weíre hoping that humble prayer will change. We need an industry that can grow and provide enough work so younger Montanans can continue the rich farming and ranching legacy in this great state.
The presidentís trade deal with Japan is what a fair agreement should 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 stand next to the president as he signed this critical trade deal, it was something we will never forget. Itís been an honor to fight for Montanaís farmers and ranchers, and we are thrilled about the opportunities that this will create across Montana for generations to come.
Mr. President, thank you for keeping your promises to our rural communities.
U.S. Sen. Steve Daines and Fred Wacker, president of the Montana Stockgrowers Association