I'm here to talk about two very different subjects, two very different bills. One is the Farm Bill, one is the Violence Against Women Act. But both bills are stuck over in the House of Representatives. Both bills should pass. Both bills received significant bipartisan support in the United States Senate, and I'm simply asking my colleagues in the other house to get their job done and get these bills passed.
I'll start with the Farm Bill. Minnesota is fifth in the country for agriculture, Madam President. It means a lot to our state and it means a lot in the rural areas but it is also tied into our metropolitan area with our farm businesses, with our food producers, and it is clearly tied in with the rest of the country.
This brings me to talk of crops burned away under the extreme summer heat. Farmers and ranchers across the country are experiencing what the United States Department of Agriculture is calling the most widespread drought we've seen in decades. Nearly 90% of the corn and soybean crops being grown in areas impacted by the drought -- the crop losses are being felt not just by our grain farmers but also driving up feed prices for our live stocks, for our poultry and for our dairy producers. As you well know, dairy producers have already come off some very difficult years.
Higher feed costs for cattle, pork, poultry and dairy impact all Americans at the grocery store. Yesterday the USDA estimated that consumers could expect to pay 3% to 4% more for grocery next year. While some people might think that food magically appears on their tables, in Minnesota we know that that food is produced every day by our farmers. Farmers stand behind each General Mills' box of Cheerios or every Jenny-o turkey on the table.
I'm also reminded of the critical role that farming plays in our state's economy and in our country's economy. It has in fact been one of the brightest spots. We all benefit from a strong farm economy that brings jobs on the farms, mills, processing plants and equipment manufacturers.
While Congress can't do anything about the lack of rain, we shouldn't make this disaster worse by delaying the passage of the Farm Bill which gives farmers and ranchers the assistance that they need to help weather this disaster and the certainty that they need to make plans for next year and the year after and after. The fact that the 2008 farm bill was a five-year time period was key to the stability in the rural areas. It was key. Farmers could plan ahead. It made a difference. We need do that same thing again.
I think it's a mistake for the House leadership to delay further action on the Farm Bill. These bills are never easy, but in the Senate, we were able to work through 70 amendments before passing the bipartisan Farm Bill with a strong 64-35 vote. Maybe they should do the same thing.
As part of our responsibility to do more with fewer resources, this bill includes over $23 billion in cuts over the 2008 farm bill. We eliminated direct payments. Further focused farm payments on our family farmers and worked to eliminate fraud and waste through the Farm Bill to ensure that these programs are efficient and targeted.
President Eisenhower was famously quoted as saying this, "farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you're 1,000 miles from the farm field." I fear some here have that same position and are content with kicking the can down the road and leaving rural America in a lump. Well, those of us in the United States Senate who supported this bill -- Democrats and Republicans -- were not content with putting our heads in the hand. We weren't content with letting the crops burn out on the field. We wanted to get something done. There are those in the house, like Representative Collin Peterson of Minnesota, who are trying valiantly to get this through the House.
The Senate passed a five-year farm bill, and it is important. It is important because it strengthens the crop insurance program. It funds livestock disaster programs for this year and continues the program through the end of the Farm Bill. It ensures that the programs that farmers use to help get through tough times like emergency financing credit program will be continued with unbroken service.
The Farm Bill also includes two of my amendments that will help farmers get through these tough times. The first amendment reduces the cost of accessing crop insurance by 10% for beginning farmers. This is critical because beginning farmers are less able to afford crop insurance protection and under greater financial stress because of the drought. The second amendment eliminates the penalty for beginning farmers that graze livestock on CRP land. This will help beginning ranchers struggling with high feed prices and will also benefit all livestock producers by freeing up corn to be fed to other animals.
Secretary Vilsack is working to help producers with the drought. The USDA has streamlined the disaster declaration process reducing the time it takes to get help. They have reduced the interest rate for emergency loans and also reduced the penalty for producers grazing livestock on conservation reserve program acres from 25%-to-down 120%.
While these are important steps, they in no way replace the help that farmers in this country will get from that Farm Bill. And we all know that it's not just a farm bill. It is a food bill. Only 14% of this that we look at is the farm programs. The rest are conservation programs, the rest are important school lunch programs. This is a Farm Bill for the country, not just the rural part.
We can see firsthand why we need that safety net for our farmers, why we need the safety net for our country. We plead with the House to get this done, follow the leadership of Collin Peterson and those of us in the Senate on a bipartisan basis who got this Farm Bill done. They need to take it to the floor.