The Farm Bill may be the single most impactful piece of legislation for the state of Montana and its current status in limbo could already be having negative effects on local farmers.
"If I'm a farmer/rancher needing to go to a bank, to a finance firm, to obtain financing for my farm, the bank is very reluctant, not knowing what kind of a program, if any, is going to occur," said Chris Christiaens of the Montana Farmers Union.
Initial funding isn't the only issue. Farmers may also have trouble with insurance if a disaster destroys their stock.
"So if we have a hail storm, as it sits right now, farmers and ranchers eat that whole thing on their own and if you have pledged your crop for your bank loan, you're facing some pretty dire situations," said Christiaens.
People may not know that the Farm Bill is also the arbiter of the nutrition program, including food stamps. In the past year, over 127,000 thousand Montanans used food stamps, which is over 12% of the state's population. That means you may know one of the wide variety of people who need them.
"In Montana, we have different classes of people who are definitely in need of food stamps. I have a tenant who is a grandmother raising grandchildren. Without the help of food stamps, she would struggle and would not be able to feed her grandchildren," said Christiaens.
Four to five families a week go homeless in Great Falls. Nearly 300 students in Great Falls need food assistance at school. Many elderly on social security can only afford one meal a day. Most want to help these people, but what about all the people who are taking advantage of the system? Actually, it happens less than you think.
"The USDA has dealt with this issue of fraud and, overall after the last two years, the percentage nationwide has been about 1%. So the incidents of fraud are not anywhere near what the public had been lead to believe," said Christiaens.
If you want to have a say in this issue, you're encouraged to contact your Senators and Congressman.