Albert Lea Tribune, Austin Daily Herald
ELLENDALE — With state representatives sidelined by the shutdown, Minnesota’s national leaders are still keeping busy.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar visited the area Saturday, stopping at Tom Favra’s farm between Ellendale and Blooming Prairie on a tour of farms and agriculture-related businesses.
Klobuchar said farming and agriculture-based businesses have helped rural Minnesota endure economic hardships.
“If you look at rural Minnesota, that’s one of the reasons that our state hasn’t fallen off a cliff like some states,” the senator said. “Because the rural economy has been held strong.”
Klobuchar said farmers like Favra are an essential part of Minnesota’s economy.
“He started out with nothing. Just a family farm and he expanded,” she said.
That’s not to say agriculture is completely unscathed by economic hardships. The senator was talking about a recent agreement to end the Ethanol Reform and Deficit Reduction Act.
“That was incredibly difficult the last few weeks, but we were able to come out of it with an agreement that is supported by the Farm Bureau, the Farmers Union, major ethanol groups and the corn growers,” Klobuchar said.
The deal would bring the subsidy to an end, while dedicating $1.3 billion of the remaining money to reducing the national debt. The remaining $668 million would be used with long-term infrastructure needs for the ethanol industry, the senator said.
“It’s important for me to get out there and actually discuss the specifics of the agreement with farmers who are actually out in the fields,” Klobuchar said.
While the loss of the credit will be a hit to the ethanol industry, Klobuchar said most farmers understand the challenges posed by the national debt.
“I think they realize what’s been happening in Washington, and I think they also realize the debt is a major problem,” Klobuchar said.
Even though the $1.3 billion is a small portion of the debt, Klobuchar said it will put pressure on the oil industry to give back in similar ways.
Klobuchar will use the stories she learned while touring the state Saturday when she returns to Washington, D.C., she said, referring to a group of farmers she met with in Houston in southeastern Minnesota.
“We are going to be able to show how these farmers, through some really tough economic times, have hung in there and are supplying jobs,” Klobuchar said.
Such real life examples are important when she’s speaking on the Senate floor, she said.
“They’re jobs that are right here in Minnesota. They’re not getting exported,” she said.
More with Sen. Amy Klobuchar:
Sen. Amy Klobuchar said the upcoming discussions will be important in coming to an agreement to reduce the national debt.
“We’re hoping we can all come in Monday and try to get a package together,” she said.
“We don’t want to turn into another Greece. We have to bring that debt down, but we have to do it in a smart way,” she added.