On the more than 80,000 farms across our state, Minnesota farmers worked around the clock to bring in a successful harvest. Going from the wet spring that delayed planting, the dry summer that stressed crops, and the wet October that has hampered the harvest, this year has not dealt them a perfect hand, but our farmers don’t make excuses. They just roll up their sleeves and get the job done.
Congress could learn a lesson or two from our farmers as we work to finally pass a strong, long-term Farm Bill. As a member of the Farm Bill Conference Committee responsible for crafting the final version of the legislation, I am committed to finding common ground and reaching an agreement that best serves Minnesota and the country.
I firmly believe that out of the chaos of the recent government shutdown comes real opportunity for progress on the Farm Bill. The American people are sick and tired of people standing in opposite corners of the boxing ring, swinging punches. They expect more and are demanding Congress work together for the good of our country.
The bipartisan, Senate passed Farm Bill includes provisions that every American can rally behind. We can reduce our debt by $24 billion dollars, secure the safety net for farmers by strengthening crop insurance programs, maintain our nutrition programs, and streamline and improve critical conservation programs that protect our environment.
While the call to pass a Farm Bill is nothing new, this time inaction is unacceptable. The one-year Farm Bill extension passed by Congress in 2012 expired on September 30th, creating harmful uncertainty for farmers and ranchers across the country.
Worse yet, if a new Farm Bill is not passed by the end of this year, we would go back to the agriculture policy of 1949. Milk prices could double, farmers would lose important safety-net programs, and funding for critical conservation programs that keep our air and water clean would be eliminated.
In the Senate, we passed a comprehensive, long-term Farm Bill that represents both compromise and reform. As a member of the Agriculture Committee, I was proud to help craft a bill that received strong bipartisan support with 66 senators voting for it.
The Senate bill strengthens the crop-insurance program which is the most important risk-management tool for many farmers in Minnesota and we funded the livestock disaster programs. We put in place a new safety net for dairy producers to address the wild volatility in the dairy market and continued the successful sugar program.
The Senate bill includes funding for the energy title programs to expand homegrown renewable energy production while streamlining conservation programs from 23 down to 13. There are new initiatives for beginning farmers and ranchers including two of my provisions to reduce the cost of crop insurance for beginning farmers by 10 percent and making sure we help beginning ranchers access land for grazing.
Page 2 of 2 - We also preserve the essential nutrition programs that millions of families and children rely on every day. While the Senate bill makes $4 billion in reductions, our focus is on reforms that involve closing loopholes that do not affect Minnesota families and still ensure that hardworking families and seniors can continue to buy the groceries they need.
Most importantly, the Senate Farm Bill cuts $24 billion from the nation’s debt and represents a genuine opportunity for common ground as we continue to work towards a long-term budget deal.
Every single American has a direct stake in the success of our farms and food businesses. Through the food we eat, the water we drink, the fuel we put in our cars, and the air we breathe. It is time for Congress to put aside the partisan gridlock and brinksmanship, work together, and pass a bipartisan Farm Bill that moves our country forward.