June 20, 2013 | Volume 118, Issue No. 25

Coming together for farmers

Whether it is a cold and wet spring, a punishing drought, or foreign countries unexpectedly shutting down their markets to American products, Minnesota farmers and ranchers must contend with a wide range of unpredictable variables that can threaten their livelihood. The U.S. Congress should not be one of them.

Unlike the forces of Mother Nature that brought us the poor planting weather this spring or the drought this past summer, lack of congressional action on the Farm Bill is entirely preventable.

That’s why as a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee I worked with my colleagues to craft a five-year Farm Bill that passed the Senate with strong bipartisan support.

The Senate Farm Bill builds on the successes of the 2008 Farm Bill, strengthening crop insurance, eliminating direct payments, reducing our deficit by $24 billion, promoting a strong energy title, and protecting conservation and nutrition programs.

The Farm Bill also includes important provisions I fought for to provide beginning farmers and ranchers greater access to crop insurance and more land for grazing, and to help protect pork and poultry producers from catastrophic losses. I also worked with North Dakota Senators John Hoeven and Heidi Heitkamp to boost agricultural research, address the backlog of Rural Development loans, support the Rural Energy for America Program, and enhance regional conservation efforts like those in the Red River Valley.

To open up new markets to Minnesota producers, the Farm Bill includes my provision instructing the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Transportation to evaluate rural transportation, including “captive shipping,” to ensure that farmers and rural businesses can move their products as quickly and affordably as possible. Last year America exported $136 billion in farm products resulting in a trade surplus of $32 billion. As the sixth largest agricultural exporting state, Minnesota contributed more than $6.8 billion in 2012.

Finally, the new Farm Bill provides something very simple to Minnesota farmers and rural communities: certainty. It puts an end to the unpredictable and volatile federal farm policy that currently exists without a strong five-year plan.

This is the second time in the last 354 days that the Senate has put forward a long-term Farm Bill that helps producers, consumers and our entire economy. Last year, the Senate passed the bill but the House of Representatives failed to act. I have heard from countless Minnesota farmers and ranchers who need the support and certainty that this bill provides, and if the House fails to act again, they do so at their own risk. Congressman Peterson has been working hard to move the Farm Bill forward in the U.S. House and I will work with him as he pushes the House leadership to take up and pass a five-year Farm Bill.

Minnesota farmers are some of the hardest workers in the United States. They produce the highest quality, lowest cost food in the world, and they represent a proud part of our state’s heritage and history. Minnesota farmers deserve a Farm Bill, and I will not stop fighting until it is signed into law.

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