Kylie Saari - Staff Writer
FAIRMONT - U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., stopped at the Lunz farm in rural Fairmont on Monday as she toured southern Minnesota farms and agribusinesses to discuss the 2012 Farm Bill.
The bill has become a hot topic amid the drought, as the expiration of the 2008 Farm Bill looms without consensus on its replacement.
If the Sept. 30 deadline comes before another bill is agreed upon, lawmakers would need to vote on whether to extend the current bill past its expiration - something that isn't a given.
"That is why this is so scary," Klobuchar said.
The U.S. Senate passed its version of the bill in June, while the House agriculture committee also passed a bill. However, the full House opted to create and pass a different bill to help farmers - a stand-alone disaster relief bill. The Senate, meanwhile, did not pass the disaster relief bill because the Farm Bill it passed includes disaster relief.
Both legislative bodies are on break until September.
The Farm Bill involves everything from conservation practice requirements, to insurance and disaster policy, to supplementary nutrition benefits for low-income people.
Klobuchar said the 2012 bill the Senate approved cuts $23 billion from the 2008 bill, largely through cuts in direct payments.
Rick Lunz said his family's visit with Klobuchar covered a range of topics important to farmers, and he was impressed with her understanding of issues affecting farmers.
The Lunz farm is a grain operation, growing corn and soybeans. For many grain farmers, the drought that damaged yields across the country this year is an important issue.
Despite this year's weather, Klobuchar said agriculture has been a bright spot amid the country's economic downturn, with the solid ag sector due in part to the five-year protections the Farm Bill provides.
"[Ag] is the ultimate American-made product," she said.
Klobuchar also visited Agco Manufacturing in Jackson, South Central Co-Op in St. James and the Hubin farm in rural Westbrook.