U.S. Senator Jon Tester is pushing back on U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) recent proposal to cut hours of operation at four of Montana’s 16 ports of entry, limiting trade and travel across the northern border.
In a letter to CBP Commissioner Kevin K. McAleenan, Tester called the agency’s plan to slash hours at the Morgan, Opheim, Raymond, and Scobey Ports of Entry “disappointing” and noted that its consequences would disproportionately affect rural America.
“Reducing port hours always disadvantages rural America and harms our agricultural competitiveness,” Tester wrote. “This abrupt decision and lack of feedback from farmers and ranchers, shippers, local communities, and our neighbors in Canada represents a deep misunderstanding of the needs of agricultural producers in rural states like Montana.”
Under CPB’s proposal, the Port of Raymond—which is currently open 24 hours—would be closed between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m. The Port of Scobey—which is open from 8 a.m. – 9 p.m. between June and September to accommodate increased travel in the summer—would be open from 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. year-round. And the Ports of Morgan and Opheim—which are open from 8 a.m. – 9 p.m. in the summer—would be open from 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. year-round.
“By reducing hours at these ports, some farmers and ranchers will be forced to divert their shipments by significant distances,” Tester continued. “This change will be costly for these producers and could make their products less competitive in the marketplace.”
Tester has repeatedly beat back proposals by CBP to cut hours of operation at Montana’s Ports of Entry. In 2016, after more than a year of advocacy, Tester successfully convinced CBP to scrap its plan to cut the hours of operation at the Port of Raymond, one of only three 24-hour ports in the state.
As Ranking Member of the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, Tester also fought to secure funding for 600 additional border patrol agents in last month’s budget deal.