Tonight, Dennis McDonald, Democratic challenger for Montana’s congressional seat, will take on GOP incumbent Dennis Rehberg, at a debate at the Montana Farmers Union Annual Meeting, held at 4:00p.m. at the Heritage Inn, 1700 Fox Farm Road, Great Falls. Dennis McDonald has invited supporters from across the state to a pre-debate rally 2:30 p.m. at the same location.
A hot topic of the debate is expected to be the issue of opening up new markets for Montana producers. New markets like Cuba would mean new jobs for Montana’s agricultural producers and farmers who make up Montana’s largest industry.
Lifting the travel ban and readjusting the payment terms for exports to Cuba would increase U.S. agricultural exports by more than $360 million annually, generating 6,000 domestic jobs and a $1 billion boost to the U.S. economy. This would be a tremendous help to Montana’s agricultural producers that will grow our state’s economy and create jobs in our rural communities.
Dennis has long been a leader in addressing agriculture and trade issues critical to Montana’s farmers and ranchers. He pushed for laws such as the Country of Origin Labeling Act and the Montana Certified Natural Beef Program. He also founded the Beef-On-Every-Plate charity program, which has provided hundreds of thousands of meals to needy Montanans. His hard work led to his appointment in 1998 to the President’s International Trade Advisory Committee for Livestock, for which he traveled extensively through the western hemisphere. In this role he fought against the Central American Free Trade Agreement, which he felt placed Montana farmers and ranchers at a competitive disadvantage.
He also lead efforts to raise Montana’s minimum wage in 2006. Under his leadership, he made sure the Dems were key players in helping this pass, directing organizing staff and volunteers to collect signatures.
His vocal role as an advocate for the Ag community-he is founder of R-CALF, a national progressive ag organization-led to greater involvement in state politics when, in 2005, he was chosen chairman of Montana’s Democratic party. His efforts to revitalize the party, particularly in rural areas all over the state, helped to elect Democrat Jon Tester to the U.S. Senate in 2006.
McDonald also knows what it’s like to face true hard times. Early in his life his family lost their home in Kansas and moved to northern California to start over. To pay for college, he worked summer jobs in a cannery as a member of the Teamsters Union and as a Forest Service firefighter.