Amy in the News
Klobuchar updates region on farm bill
May 28, 2008
Matt Bewley, Grand Forks Herald
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., was in East Grand Forks on Tuesday morning to give her constituents an update on the progress and strength of the now nearly-completed farm bill.
At the USDA’s Red River Valley Potato Research Work Site, she opened remarks to the small crowd by thanking local farm organizations for their efforts on the farm bill.
“It made an enormous difference, the way all the ag groups were able to work together across, I think, more than partisan lines, but across geographic lines in the country,” she said.
Among the most hotly-contested issues in the new bill, the subsidy provisions paid to farmers were reduced, though not to the levels the Bush administration had demanded. The subsidy limits are $500,000 for non-farmers and $750,000 for full-time farmers, she reported, noting that the marketing loan exemption still is in place for full-time farmers only.
Citing protection of the farmer safety net as her No. 1 focus, she said, “We heard time and time again how the 2002 farm bill was better than the last one, and we wanted to make that stay in place.”
The new bill includes new provisions, including an increase in target and loan rates for various commodities and an optional revenue-based counter-cyclical pilot program, slated to begin in 2010.
“I don’t think a lot of people thought that was actually going to get done,” Klobuchar said. “But we were able to get $3.8 billion in permanent disaster relief, which, especially for this area of the state, is incredibly important.”
The sugar program was improved with an increase of three-quarters of a cent on the loan rate, she said, claiming improvements in the milk program as well.
Speaking on the ethanol provisions in the bill, she said the industry needs to expand it beyond corn-based ethanol to cellulosic ethanol, which, if current speculation proves out, may use switchgrass and prairie grass instead of marketable commodities.
“We’re not going to be able to get where we want just on corn-based ethanol,” she said. “That’s why we put these provisions in the farm bill to go to the next level, and I think especially for northwestern Minnesota, (this) is going to be very helpful as we look at some marginal farmland and what we can grow there as we look at the next step.”
Turning to the issue of skyrocketing input costs, Klobuchar said she recognized the costs producers are facing for fuel, fertilizer and other inputs, saying she thinks that should be next on Congress’ schedule.
“We have a lot of work that needs to be done here, and I think there has been lack of leadership from the administration on this,” she said. “I believe this has to be the next really big man-on-the-moon focus for our country.”
Alternative power sources like wind, solar, hydro and nuclear power all will garner more attention in the future, she said.
“I think there’s going to be some more interest in that, as we move forward there also could be some potential for economic development here,” she said.
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