Amy in the News
Klobuchar calls for passage of Farm Bill
December 5, 2012
Madam President, I am here today to talk about the need for action on a five-year Farm Bill for our farmers and our rural communities. The Senator from Iowa, who just spoke, understood how important this Farm Bill is. I know you from the State of New York understand how important this Farm Bill is.
This summer, farmers in the corn belt of our country waited, sometimes in vain, for rain that could either make or break an entire year of work. Many of them lost their entire crops. This fall, sugar beet farmers along the Red River Valley in Minnesota and North Dakota waited for dry weather because they needed that to pull out the last of their crop. And right now, at this very moment, farmers, ranchers and rural communities throughout the country continue to wait, but this time they are not waiting for weather, they are not recovering from weather. They are waiting for a new Farm Bill.
In fact, they have waited 167 days since the Senate passed the bipartisan Farm Bill this June, and they have waited 66 days since the 2008 Farm Bill expired in September. Unlike the drought this summer and the hurricane that hit your state this fall, the failure to complete a farm bill is entirely preventable. Inaction in the House of Representatives is hurting farmers right now.
Without a new Farm Bill, dairy farmers have lost their safety net. In fact, prices may go to the 1939 levels. You talk about moving backwards, that's what will happen if we don't get this Farm Bill done. Livestock producers operate without key disaster programs without this Farm Bill, and farmers in rural communities are left guessing about what rules they will operate under as they plan next year's crop.
These are not small things. What is the kind of crop insurance that they are going to be qualified for? Is there going to be some kind of safety net? They have absolutely no idea because we wait and we wait and we wait for the House of Representatives to act.
They did pass a Farm Bill through their committee. I liked ours better, but they got it through the committee, but guess what? They have not been able to bring it to the floor for a vote. And our farmers and our ranchers and the people in our rural communities wait and they wait and they wait.
Now, I believe there are good reasons that we can finish the Farm Bill this year. There is already a path forward to complete work on a Farm Bill and have it signed by the president at the end of this year. The Farm Bill passed in the senate, as we all know, passed with strong bipartisan support. It was approved by a vote of 64-35. Thanks to Chairman Stabenow's leadership and the leadership of ranking member Roberts, we were able to get this bill through. We voted on nearly 80 amendments. We did our job in the United States Senate.
The Senate Farm Bill saves money. It would reduce the deficit by $23 billion over the next ten years. That's a saving over the last Farm Bill. The Senate Farm Bill also makes major reforms like eliminating direct payments and further focusing farm payments on our family farmers. Extending disaster programs for livestock producers, and it continues credit provisions to help our farmers get through tough times. It creates a public-private partnership to fund agricultural research to give farmers the tools that they need to stay competitive and feed a growing world.
When Bill Gates comes and talks to me about the Farm Bill, you know this Farm Bill is more than just about some farmers in Minnesota. It is about feeding our country. It is about feeding the world. It is about the research that we need to do to make sure that we have the most efficient crops, that we are developing crops and that we are developing livestock and varieties of crops and farm products that can feed the world.
This Farm Bill works to eliminate fraud and waste through the farm bill to ensure that these programs are efficient and targeted. Passing this Farm Bill is important, and that is why 235 agricultural conservation research and energy organizations signed a letter this November to leadership in the house urging that they pass a farm bill before the end of the year.
Our farmers and agricultural communities understand that tough budgetary choices need to be made. That's why the Senate Agriculture Committee actually came forward and said okay, we're going to find a way to do this very differently. We're going to eliminate direct payments and we're going to strengthen our crop insurance. And we also made sure that there was incredibly strong conservation programs in the bill. But still found a way to cut $23 billion.
I'm opposed to playing red light-green light with agricultural policy which prevents the farmers and ranchers from making the long-term capital investments that help them remain competitive in today's marketplace. It might be easy to forget as we sit in this chamber all that goes into growing the most abundant, safest food supply if in the world.
When I travel across our state I'm impressed by the work and planning that goes into making each farm and ranch operate in the face of market failures, in the face of natural disasters, in the face of volatile weather. Well guess what? This is the time when that planning goes on. It goes on right now. Anyone who just learned in kindergarten about how we plant crops and get things done knows that the fall and winter is the time when you plan ahead and then you plant your crops and then you move ahead and then pretty soon you're harvesting them. Well they need to know what the rules of the games are to get this done.
Each year family farmers make tough decisions about which crops to plant, what equipment to purchase and when to market their crops. Congress should be no less committed to completing work on Farm Bill which provides the safety net and certainty for farmers, for ranchers, for rural communities.
The stakes are high for Minnesota. Agriculture is our state's leading export, accounting for $75 billion in economic activity every year and supporting more than 300,000 jobs. Minnesota is number three in the country for hogs and soybeans, it's also home to pork processers and biodiesel plants. Minnesota is number four in corn and it's also home to 21 ethanol plants that produce over a billion gallons of ethanol every single year. We are number one for sugar beets; we are number one for sweet corn.
But as we all know this isn't just an issue in our state. Our nation's farms and ranches are responsible for a $42 billion trade surplus. This is one of the jewels of our economy and in our country. We actually are making things, producing things and exporting to the world. Why would we want to pull out the rug from underneath one of our most promising and successful exporting industries in this country, and that is the business of farming?
This is so promising, we're already doing well, we can even do better. With the critical control that farming plays in our country's economy there is no excuse to further delay the consideration of the Farm Bill. Agriculture—a bright spot in our economy. We can't jeopardize the economic future of rural america and really of our entire country just to score political points over in the House.
I continue to believe that the carefully crafted bill that we did in the Senate finds a good balance between a number of priorities and I urge the House of Representatives to complete work, to work with the Senate so that we can make sure as we come to the year-end that we have a major deal which we must have on the fiscal cliff that we also include the Farm Bill. Because with the farm bill we save $23 billion over what we've been spending the last few years. So let's get to work and get this done. Thank you, Madam President. I yield the floor.
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