With less grassland available for the region, federal officials allowed ranchers to move cattle into the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge north of the Missouri River.

Though the fire was started by lightning on July 19, ranchers in the area did not get disaster assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency until a few days later, due to distance and logistics. The fire was controlled by July 29.

When states are hit by wildfire and must spend their own money to control them, FEMA programs can reimburse states for 75 percent. But hurdles in securing FEMA funding have become more common in states facing floods and tornadoes, and this summer’s wildfire season in Montana and the Dakotas has only accentuated the problem.

“We lost 70 percent of our grass, which means 70 percent of our revenue,” Erwin Weder, owner of a 65,000-acre ranch in Sand Springs, Montana, told the Washington Post. “I don’t think people truly understand what an acre of grass is worth to us ... and the millions of dollars that will be lost over the next few years.”

Grazing in the Charles M. Russell NWR will be allowed for a monthly fee of $29 per cow-calf pair until November.


“We have a saying that Montana is one small town with really long roads, and as a neighbor in that small town, the department is dedicated to providing disaster relief and resources where possible,” said Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke.

“When I talk about restoring trust between local communities and the federal government, and being a good neighbor, this is exactly what I mean. My staff and I heard from ranchers, equipment dealers and other concerned citizens, and we all got to work. I applaud the quick work and flexibility of the team at the CMR for getting this done for the community.”

For assistance, ranchers can contact the wildlife refuge at (406) 538-8706.

Longshore deal keeps West Coast exports moving through 2022

Cattle producers sending shipments overseas can rest easy that their product will sail smoothly, thanks to a new labor agreement with West Coast ports and longshore workers.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association officially ratified a three-year extension on their labor contract for workers at 29 ports on the West Coast.

The Aug. 4 announcement was welcome news for officials in U.S. trade, who did not want to see a repeat of the standoff in 2014 and 2015 that dealt a major blow to exports and imports due to labor disputes that led to a worker strike.

The longshore agreement was ratified with 67 percent of members voting in favor of the extension. The current agreement was going to expire July 1, 2019. The new deal extends an agreement to July 2022. The International Longshore and Warehouse Union’s Coast Longshore Division represents approximately 20,000 longshore workers on the West Coast.

“This news will bring greater confidence to the countless farmers, workers and businesses across our region who rely on our strong ports and who suffered millions in losses during the 2014-2015 disruption,” Rep. Dave Reichert, chairman of the Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee, said in a statement.

A new agreement comes at a crucial time for U.S. as trade negotiations have opened up beef products to China, and shipments to Japan have seen higher tariffs due to World Trade Organization caps triggered on high volumes.

“The severe congestion we saw in the West Coast ports in 2014 and 2015 created major logistical problems for U.S. red meat exporters and prompted some international customers to seek alternative suppliers,” U.S. Meat Export Federation president and CEO Philip Seng said in a statement. “The contract extension helps ensure the U.S. will continue to live up to its reputation as a reliable red meat supplier.”  end mark

—From combined reports