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Tester discusses bills impact on CKST, new bills on security

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MONTANA — In a recent media phone call, Senator Jon Tester discussed a number of bills he’s been involved with that have a direct impact on the Confederated Salish Kootenai Tribe. 

The office of Senator Tester announced on Feb. 3 that CSKT would receive nearly $156,937,000 out of the bipartisan infrastructure bill Tester worked on with nine other senators – five republican and four other democrats – to develop the Indian Water Rights Settlement Completion Fund and fulfill Indian Water rights settlements in Montana. CSKT will use the funds in consultation with the Department of Interior and Indian Water Rights offices to enable Tribes and their non-Native neighbors to access long-promised water resources critical for quality of life and economic development.  

The same bipartisan Investment and Jobs Act Bill, also resulted in CSKT receiving $368,000 in funding for the Safe Streets for All grants to develop comprehensive safety action plans on the Reservation for the prevention of roadway deaths and serious injuries. “Obviously the reason for this is that road infrastructure in a state like Montana is really critically important,” Tester commented. “The (Flathead) Reservation is a big reservation that has wildlife impacts and other things. This funding will allow them to plan to make sure they have a comprehensive plan moving forward so that when the shovels hit the ground, they can use this money to maximize those dollars as much as possible.”

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act developed two years ago by ten politicians deals with everything from roads and bridges to broadband and electrical transmission and water distribution. “It’s the largest infrastructure investment in this country since the Eisenhower administration,” Tester stated. “The key is that the biggest threat in this country is China; they want to replace us economically and militarily. This investment in infrastructure, I think, puts us in a very good position to maintain our position as the leading economic power in the world.”

While on the subject of China, Tester explained he and a republican senator out of South Dakota are currently working on a bill that would ban a number of foreign adversaries – China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea – from investing in, purchasing, leasing, or otherwise acquiring US farmland and agricultural business. As chairman of the defense committee, the activities of China have been drawing Tester’s attention. 

“This legislation would prevent countries like China from buying up American farmland, which would help with our food security and national security because they are one in the same,” Tester stated. “We dropped this bill in before the balloon incident, but the truth is we’ve been talking about it a lot since the balloon incident … This issue of Chinese investment in ag land and ag business has been around for a while.” 

Currently, the senators are getting technical assistance on the bill to make sure it does specifically what they want it to do before trying to get it moved to the U.S. Senate, House, and on to the President’s desk. If passed, the bill will be enforced at the federal level by an agency called the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). They agency already examines foreign investments, but Tester said they have never really looked into farmland or ag business, so agriculture would be added to the committee’s list of foreign investments to investigate. The bill would also require an investigation into how much farmland has previously been purchased by countries like China, and report back on foreign takeovers of U.S. farmland and businesses. There are no solid metrics on how much farmland has been purchased by foreign adversaries at this time. 

“The truth is I think there have been some investments,” Tester stated. “We’ve got to make sure that stops, and going forward we’ve got to make sure they divest those investments too.” 

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