Senior US Senator Jon Tester joined the Pat & Randy show on 560 KMON Friday morning.  Topics included, Europe, Meat & Poultry Industry, Grizzly Bears, Inflation and the upcoming election.  Read part of the interview here or scroll to the bottom to hear the interview in its entirety.

Pat: Senator, you're the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, and it caught my attention this week when you started posting some pictures on your Facebook page that you were actually over in Europe meeting with American troops and more. How did that all go?

Senator Tester: It went very well, and I don't do much traveling, but this was an important trip because of our support for Ukraine and got to meet with the troops and got to visit with them and couldn't be prouder of these folks. These folks are the tip of the spear. They're doing incredible work in conditions that are a whole lot different than Montana. And I can't be more proud of our military men and women and the work they do. And I also had a chance to meet with the defense minister from Lithuania and some of the other folks that deal with defense from some of the other countries. Germany, Denmark, and Poland. Got to meet with some refugees from Ukraine. It was a really eye opening trip, and it was a trip that makes me proud to be an American, because quite honestly, the folks, particularly in Lithuania and Poland, are very concerned about what Putin may do next. And they love freedom. And anything I think that we can do to help assist those folks in being more like us, having the freedoms that we have, I think, is a fight worth fighting. And it was very evident to me that these folks are very happy with the way life has been since they've broken away from the USSR. And now to see Putin go into Ukraine, going to Crimea a few years ago and then going to Ukraine, they're very worried that they could be next. It was very opening, and it was a very good educational trip for me.

Randy: Senator you've had some pretty big successes in the meat and poultry industry. You've got a processing expansion program that I know you've been working on. Talk about that, if you would, please.

Senator Tester: Look, we've got and we raised the best beef in the world. That's not bragging, that's fact. I'm talking about within Montana and America raises the best beef in the world. One of the challenges we've had around the country, and Montana is no exception, is getting that meat processed and then being able to move that meat because its USDA inspected. And so the more processing plants we can do, I think it opens up more opportunity for more competition in the marketplace. And these plants, they cost a few bucks to set up. And so we fought, and we've been pretty successful in getting grants through the American Rescue plan and through direct appropriations so that some of these small meat packing plants can start processing beef and poultry also and get a USDA inspected. So it will give our producers, our cow calf guys in particular, and our small feeders, the ability to be able to market meat in different ways than just running them through the big packers. And there's a lot of folks in this state that work hard. And cutting meat is hard work. There's no doubt about it. My wife and I did it for 25 years. But the truth is that there are folks that are stepping up. They're putting capital on the line, but they need a little bit of help just to get this thing going. And so we were able to get some dollars through the American Rescue Plan for a packing plant here up out of Havre. And we're able to get the Great Falls Development Authority some serious dollars, about $2 million, in fact, to be able to loan those dollars out to folks that are real and working on setting up meat packing operations or growing existing operations.

Randy: Senator, here, a while back, I did an interview with Joe Kipp out of Browning about Grizzlies, and I'd sent you that story, and you'd said that we need to rely on the science. Everything I'm hearing is the science says Grizzlies have recovered. What's our next step in getting them delisted and getting the control back into the state of Montana?

Senator Tester: I think that if the science is there I mean, we did this with wolves. It's been about ten years ago, and the science showed that the wolves have been recovered. We ought to be rejoicing in that. They've recovered, they work now, let's manage it. And you manage them through hunting. And I think it's the same thing with Grizzlies. If the science is there, then we need to move forward and manage them. They're at the top of the food chain, and if they're not managed, then they get out of control. This isn't 1850 anymore. This is 2022, soon to be 2023. And we need to manage things in a way that makes sense for the Grizzlies are our state animals. So they're very important for the people of Montana. But the truth is that if they're recovered, they're recovered. Let's manage them like they manage deer or wolves or any of the other wild animals we have out there.

Pat: Senator, one of the big elephants heading into the election is inflation. That's one of the elephants in the room. How do we get this back under control and are we going in the right direction?

Senator Tester: Well, I think it's pretty interesting. Inflation is a huge issue in this country, by the way. It's a huge issue all around the world. I saw it probably double or triple what it is here over in Europe. But the question is we don't live in Europe, we live in this country and inflation is high. What are we going to do about it? And one of the things that we have done, and we've done several, the Chips Act brings jobs back and the chips are in everything from the credit card in your pocket to the car you drive. So this will help make chips available in this country so we don't have to depend on Taiwan or South Korea. That will help with inflation because supply chain is really important and foreign supply chains, by the way, are more difficult than the ones in country. The other thing is infrastructure. And I've talked with you guys about the bipartisan infrastructure bill to give high speed internet and better roads and bridges. That will help if we can get stuff to market without costing a fortune. That will help with the inflation moving forward. And I think that drug negotiations are another one. We've talked about drug negotiations for the last three decades. And finally through the Inflation Reduction Act, we've got something going that I think is going to not only help our seniors, but it's going to help everybody reduce the cost of prescription drugs. So those are a few things, but the truth is we need to continue to look for opportunities to reduce the inflation. The price of gas and diesel fuel is pretty doggone high and we need to do our best to get as much energy into that marketplace. We also did that in the inflation reduction act. And I would say one other thing. I think it's important that businesses make profits. You don't stay in business if you don't make a profit. But if you take a look at the profits of the oil companies made over the last year or six months in particular, it has been incredible. I mean, they're really putting it to us. And so maybe we have to take a look and see what those guys are doing and just hold them accountable the same way I'm trying to hold the big packers accountable and when they're taking advantage of our cow calf operators. Capitalism works. But sometimes you need some side boards and I think some questions need to be asked to the big oil companies and move forward there too. I think that can help.

Randy: Senator, next Tuesday is a big day here in Cascade County. We've only gotten about 50% of our mail out ballots about 17000 back, so the numbers aren't looking really good. Talk about how important next Tuesday is.

Senator Tester: Well, look, it is really important. I think it's foundational to our democracy. People have fought and died for our right to vote. And I mean that literally. They have fought and died. So you and I can go to the polls and cast a ballot for the people that we believe they're going to represent us best. And I would just say for everybody out there listening to KMON, and your listenership is large, it is really important to get out and vote if our democracy is going to work. People voting is fundamental to that. And I would tell you some people will say, well, it's better for Republicans if less and more people voted. It's better for Democrats or less and more people vote. The bottom line is this if everybody votes that can get to the polls and vote, it's better for our nation, it's better for our democracy. And democracy, it's not the rule of mankind. Dictatorships are. We need to fight to maintain this democracy. Voting is fundamental to that.

Polls are open until 8:00 PM MST on Tuesday November 8th, 2022

More From 99.9 Big Sky Sports