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Montana Senator on Why Expanding Broadband is Good for the State

The following was published by the Sidney Herald on March 2, 2019 
by Bill Vander Weele 

With rural Montana facing challenging economic times, U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., noted steps that the federal government should take to help Montanans in the future.

During a conference call with statewide media this week, Tester discussed Richland County’s situation including MDU’s plan to retire three coal-fired electric generation units including the one at the Lewis and Clark station in Sidney. The facility’s retirement, scheduled to occur around the end of 2020, leads questions regarding the future of Savage’s coal mine.

Tester said he has been a proponent for carbon capture technology for years. The technology captures carbon dioxide emissions so it doesn’t enter the atmosphere.

“It’s time we do research on the way we burn coal,” Tester said. “It would be more efficient for our environment and consumers.”

The senator noted that the new farm bill features many elements that will benefit rural Montana including funding for water projects and rural economic development.

Tester especially stressed the importance of $550 million for a new rural broadband program that will bring high speed internet to rural areas.

The broadband will allow people to stay in rural Montana, because it connects them with people all around the world, Tester said.

The senator added that, at large partly because of tariffs, more farm are struggling in Montana now than anytime since 2008. “Montana’s people are seeing their bottom line shrink to the point that it’s a problem,” Tester said.

Another avenue where rural Montana might be helped is to reinstate country-of-origin labeling for beef and pork. The Montana House Agriculture Committee held a hearing this week regarding the issue.

Tester noted he’s a strong supporter of country-of-origin labeling. “The reason is I believe U.S. beef is the best in the world, and we should be able to tell consumers that it’s U.S. beef.”