Minnesota's 80,000 farms represent a proud part of our state's heritage and history. We are the nation's fifth largest agricultural producing state, and our farmers contribute more than $18 billion to Minnesota's economy each year. I know that Minnesota's prosperity depends on supporting and strengthening our farms and rural communities throughout our state. That's why I sought a seat on the Senate Agriculture Committee. In 2007 and 2008, I worked closely with House Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson to pass a Farm Bill that included important provisions like the permanent disaster program, strengthened the safety net, and has worked well for Minnesota producers. My top priority in the 2012 Farm Bill has been to pass a 5-year bill that further strengthens Minnesota's rural economy by ensuring that our farmers continue to have the safety net they need.
Agriculture is cyclical in nature. Farmers make large capital investments in their crops, livestock, buildings, and equipment, and sometimes face heavy losses due to natural and market circumstances beyond their control. Minnesota has experienced storms, drought, and flooding in recent years, all of which have cost our farmers hundreds of millions of dollars. I am committed to maintaining a strong, fair safety net for Minnesota farmers to help them survive disasters and periods of low prices.
During the 2008 Farm Bill debate, I led the fight for fair income caps on federal farm subsidies to make sure support went to hardworking family farmers and not to urban millionaires. I have also worked to cut through red tape and to protect farmers from burdensome regulations that affect their ability to continue to grow and produce the highest-quality food in the world.
In 2012, I worked hard to craft a strong Farm Bill that builds on the successes of the 2008 Farm Bill, strengthens the safety net for Minnesota farmers and ranchers, streamlines conservation programs, and supports homegrown energy while making $23 billion in cuts to help reduce the deficit. The 2012 Farm Bill passed the Senate in June with strong bipartisan support, and I am working with my colleagues to ensure the bill becomes law so Minnesota's farmers and rural communities have the support they need to grow and thrive.
I also believe that farm-based, homegrown biofuels are critical to both our rural economies and our nation's energy security. In 2011 ethanol production in Minnesota exceeded one billion gallons, supporting 8,400 jobs and contributing $3 billion to our state's economy. And during a period when we have seen volatile gas prices, biofuels have helped reduce the cost for consumers at the pump by as much as $1.09 per gallon. As we continue our push to move our nation toward energy independence, we need to be supporting the famers and workers of the Midwest, not the oil cartels of the Mideast. From traditional biofuels like ethanol and biodiesel to the next generation of cellulosic ethanol made from prairie grass to wind energy to electricity made from livestock waste, our farmers will play a key role in charting our new energy future.
As Minnesota's U.S. Senator, I will continue to focus on these priorities:
- Preserving and strengthening the farm safety net. Farmers and farm communities need a strong and fair farm safety net to protect against extreme weather and market failures. In an effort to help address our nation's debt, the Senate-passed 2012 Farm Bill included over $13 billion in cuts. The bill eliminated direct payments and worked to eliminate fraud and waste to ensure these programs are efficient and targeted. I supported successful efforts to strengthen the crop insurance program, continue the sugar program, create new risk management tools for dairy producers and fund permanent disaster programs for livestock producers.
- Additional reform of federal farm payments. The 2008 Farm Bill contained important reforms to the farm payment system, including a new income cap on eligibility for commodity payments. In the Senate-passed 2012 Farm Bill, we made additional reforms to ensure that payments are helping our family farmers. In these tough budget times, I will continue working to make sure that federal support goes to our hardworking farmers and beginning farmers struggling to get a start, not those who do not need the assistance. The 2012 Farm Bill also included two of my amendments to help beginning farmers by reducing the cost of accessing crop insurance for beginning farmers and eliminating the penalty for beginning ranchers that graze livestock on CRP acres.
- Conserving our natural resources. Conservation programs in the Farm Bill provide the tools for farmers and ranchers in Minnesota to conserve sensitive lands and promote farming practices that reduce soil erosion and improve air and water quality. Minnesota ranks in the top five states for conservation programs. The 2012 Farm Bill streamlined the conservation programs and protected the important programs Minnesota producers use to keep our soil healthy and our water clean. Specifically, I worked to ensure that local communities, like the Red River Valley, will have the tools they need to address conservation challenges like flooding. Conservation groups know how important the Farm Bill is, and that is why over 640 conservation groups supported the Senate Farm Bill. The livelihood of farmers depends on clean water and healthy soils, and I will continue to fight to ensure that these natural resources are protected for the next generation of Minnesotans.
- Ensuring that the nutrition needs of our most vulnerable citizens are met. During the height of the economic downturn, the USDA nutrition program served as a lifeline for over 370,000 Minnesotans. I want to ensure that this vital safety net is in place to provide meaningful relief to Minnesotans when it is most needed. School nutrition programs help introduce children to new fruits and vegetables, providing healthy foods while also fostering healthier eating habits that can last a lifetime. I support farmers markets and other opportunities for farmers to market their products directly to Minnesotans in local restaurants and stores. Everyone benefits when we reconnect to the farmers in our communities that provide us safe, nutritious and affordable food.
- Opening markets for Minnesota producers. Exports are critical to the U.S. economy. In 2012 Minnesota exported nearly $7 billion worth of agricultural products, a 13 percent increase from the previous year. As a member of the President's Export Council and the former chair of the Senate subcommittee on exports, I believe we need to be doing everything we can to help American farmers sell more of their products in foreign markets. Exports are key to the success of our beef, pork, and turkey producers, and I will do everything I can to assist them in breaking down export barriers. I will continue to work to keep existing markets open and create new opportunities for Minnesota producers.
- Providing incentives for homegrown energy. Homegrown energy production can reduce our dependence on foreign oil while bringing jobs to our rural communities. In order to expand our homegrown energy technologies and supplies, it is important for investors to have a stable, reliable set of economic guidelines.
- Expanding technology in rural America. Minnesota agriculture producers compete in a global marketplace. To maintain our competitive advantage, we need the infrastructure that gives our farmers and rural communities access to foreign consumers. Broadband and high-tech advancements allow producers to sell their crops and livestock at better prices, reduce fuel and input materials to protect the environment, and provide new business opportunities for rural communities.
As Minnesota's U.S. Senator, I've been fighting to keep our farms and rural communities strong and to keep our state a leader in homegrown energy:
- Improving the farm safety net and providing emergency steps to protect farmers. Farmers and farm communities need a fair safety net when prices fall. As a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, I successfully fought to extend the commodity programs in the 2008 Farm Bill, and to rebalance these programs to be more equitable to northern crops such as wheat, barley, and canola. In the 2012 Farm Bill, I worked to strengthen the crop insurance program and helped provide greater protection for our dairy farmers from market volatility. Because the last six years have been particularly challenging for dairy farmers, I also successfully fought to extend the Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) program and raise the payment rate to a level that is fairer to dairy producers.
- Providing permanent disaster assistance for farmers. Minnesota farmers lost nearly $700 million in crop value to disasters in 2005 and 2006. I worked to secure the first-ever permanent program of disaster assistance in the 2008 Farm Bill. A permanent program means that it won't take an act of Congress for farmers to get relief each time disaster strikes - help will be there when farmers need it. Since 2008 this program has helped Minnesota farmers recover nearly $100 million in crop losses caused by disasters, and has provided support for Minnesota's poultry and livestock producers that experience millions of dollars in losses each year due to extreme weather.
- Ensuring Minnesota's leadership in the next generation of biofuels. I took the lead on efforts in the Senate Agriculture Committee to move the nation toward the next generation of biofuels - cellulosic ethanol made from dedicated energy crops like prairie grass and alfalfa as well as from agricultural residues and wood chips. Working with Senators Tom Harkin of Iowa and Kent Conrad of North Dakota, I authored the Farm-to-Fuel Investment Act, which was included in the Energy Title of the 2008 Farm Bill, to offer incentives to farmers to grow dedicated energy crops on marginal farmland. In the 2012 Farm Bill, I worked to include a strong energy title to expand homegrown renewable energy production.
- Developing homegrown, farm-based energy. In 2011 I introduced the Securing America's Future with Energy and Sustainable Technologies (SAFEST Act) to promote long-term investments in biofuel infrastructure and an increase in cars powered by alternative fuels. This bill would extend and expand federal incentives for private sector investment in homegrown energy sources such as wind power and solar energy. I have also pushed to make ethanol and biodiesel more available at the gas pump to American consumers. I cosponsored the Energy Independence and Security Act, which included provisions to install ethanol and biodiesel pumps in gas stations across the country. In addition, my Right to Retail Renewable Fuels amendment to the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 is helping to ensure that new fuels can come to market by preventing oil companies from using their market power to stop gas stations from selling of renewable fuels.
- Conserving our natural resources. . As a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, I worked to streamline the conservation programs in the 2012 Farm Bill. I also fought to ensure that conservation programs were not disproportionately cut, and that savings from these programs were reinvested in programs that have been successful in Minnesota like the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and Wetlands Conservation Program.
- Improving our nutrition programs. Nearly three-fourths of the resources in the Farm Bill are directed to nutrition programs. The Farm Bill provides a stronger safety net through the Food Stamp program, the Emergency Food Assistance program, and the Commodity Supplemental Food program. In 2008 and 2012, I pushed for the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program which helps introduce children to a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables as well as programs that fund the purchase of fresh fruits and vegetables for school lunches. I also helped lead the passage of the bipartisan Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which was signed into law in 2010, to overhaul the major domestic food assistance programs that serve the nutritional needs of 29 million American children each day.
- Increasing agricultural exports. I have introduced legislation with Representative Collin Peterson to open up markets for agricultural products in Cuba. I also worked with a bipartisan group of senators in urging the Administration to ensure that as part of its accession to the World Trade Organization, Russia should meet international standards and not block U.S. exports to Russia. And I successfully fought to pressure China to reopen its markets to American pork products.
- Cutting red tape and giving a voice to farmers. I believe that if more people with a farming background were included in the decision-making process for new federal policies, we might avoid some of the regulations that have justifiably frustrated farmers in Minnesota and across the nation. I have fought hard to protect farmers from burdensome regulations, such as proposals to treat milk the same as oil when requiring spill prevention plans or to regulate dust on farm roads and driveways. I've also introduced the Representation for Farmers Act to ensure that American farmers are represented in the decision-making process for environmental policies and regulations that would affect U.S. agriculture.
- A simpler and fairer tax treatment for agriculture equipment. Putting money back in the pockets of our farmers and ranchers enables them to promote economic growth and strengthen our rural communities. I authored the bipartisan Agriculture Equipment and Machinery Depreciation Act with Senator Moran of Kansas that proposes a fairer, simpler fix to the tax code to boost the U.S. agriculture industry. Changing the depreciation schedule for agriculture equipment to five years would make the tax code more consistent and aid rural development by increasing farm income by over $850 million a year, while helping farmers and ranchers finance new equipment and replace worn-out machinery.
- Making it easier for farmers to transport goods. In 2011 I introduced bipartisan legislation with Senator Roberts of Kansas to fully restore the Agriculture Hours-of-Service exemption across the full food and farm supply chain. This legislation, which was included in the Surface Transportation bill signed into law in July 2012, will make it easier for farmers to transport goods and get products to market during the critical planting and harvesting seasons. In the 2012 Farm Bill, I also successfully included an amendment to help improve rural transportation and address captive shipping issues.
Senator Klobuchar’s Offices
302 Hart Senate Office Building
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Main Line: 202-224-3244
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Toll Free: 1-888-224-9043
1200 Washington Avenue South, Room 250
Minneapolis, MN 55415
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