AUSTIN, Minn. — During a recent trek across southern Minnesota to discuss the Senate-passed farm bill, Sen. Amy Klobuchar enjoyed some “Spamples” while touring the Spam Museum.
Klobuchar was in town to meet with executives from Hormel and local officials and discuss the farm bill. The senator was led by a Spambassador through the museum’s interactive exhibits and she accepted Spam hors d’oeuvres while learning about Hormel’s deep-rooted history in the state.
Hormel, founded in 1891 by George A. Hormel, is a Fortune 500 food products company. It makes Spam along with other Hormel-branded pork products. Hormel has brought other foods under its umbrella — Skippy peanut butter and Jennie-O Turkey, for example.
The Spam Museum was Klobuchar’s second stop in southern Minnesota to talk about the farm bill working its way through Congress.
The last farm bill, which delivered $867 billion in federal benefits to farm and food programs, expires on Sept. 30.
Klobuchar contributed several provisions to the new bill, providing farmers with insurance, create animal disease and weather disaster programs, and increase support for dairy farmers. She also introduced a number of amendments to the Senate-passed text regarding renewable energy, broadband internet and providing incentives to beginning farmers.
The Senate’s version of the bill was passed just one week after the House passed its measure by a thin margin. A conference committee will attempt to reconcile the differences between the two bills and get it passed in both houses. Reauthorization is a priority for U.S. farmers and agricultural industries who are watching commodity prices drop nearly every day.
The biggest hurdle is expected to be over food aid. The House bill tightens work requirements for recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the nation’s food stamp program.
The Senate version aims to reduce fraud in SNAP, but doesn’t cut funding from the program, which helps feed more than 40 million people.
Currently, able-bodied adults ages 18-49 without children are required to work 20 hours a week to maintain their benefits. The House bill raises the top age of the work requirement to 59 and requires parents with children older than 6 to work or participate in job training.
Klobuchar said agricultural production in southern Minnesota as “an example of how farm bills and policies can work.”
“Now we’re seeing some hard times with prices, and we’ve had some flooding and storms down here, but we’ve made sure that when people need help, they get it,” said Klobuchar. “But overall, they are thriving on their own.”
At a time when actions from Washington have caused grain prices to plummet, Klobuchar said it’s important to look out for rural families so farmers and their children stay on their land and weather the storm. Klobuchar said the Senate’s version of the farm bill has provisions that will help them.
“When you look at when we had the last economic downturn, southern Minnesota was the first to come out of it,” said Klobuchar, who credited the region’s fiscal resilience to its diverse economy. “The great thing about the farm bill is that we can take what’s worked for the past few years — which is most of it, and then improve it.”