Madam President, I rise today in support of this very important bill and I want to thank Senator Stabenow for her leadership as well as the Senator from Mississippi. It was a true bipartisan effort, and as I heard her list all these names of these wonderful staff people that worked on this bill, I also want to mention my staff member, Adam Durand. But the other thing I thought about was that this wouldn't have happened without Senator Stabenow with her ever-optimistic view of never giving up on this bill. I thank you, Senator. It has been 354 days since the Senate passed its last Farm Bill. I've been counting it down, Madam President, and this is long overdue. This got done in record speed because we had gone through all of these issues, 70-some amendments last time, and this time we were able to get the Farm Bill through the Agriculture Committee in record time, in three hours, and now it's on the floor, and I predict we'll have strong bipartisan support.
You ask why. Well, first of all, last year our country experienced the worst drought since 1956, costing the country tens of billions of dollars. In Minnesota, 74 counties were eligible for disaster relief due to drought. This year the late spring and wet conditions have prevented many farmers in my state from even getting their crop into the ground. Dairy farmers have been especially hurt because of the alfalfa shortage, because of the rot, because of the water. Now, we can't do anything about the weather, but we can make sure that our country has a steady food supply and that we are not dependent on foreign food. How do we do that? By having a smart, fiscally sound Farm Bill. I can tell you what we have here is a bill that literally saves the taxpayers $24 billion in ten years over the last Farm Bill. That's why it makes no sense for me to play a game of green light/red light. And at the end of the year, are we going to extend the last Farm Bill that's even more expensive when we have a very smart Farm Bill here?
It matters in my state. My state is number one in turkeys – I always like to say that -- sweet corn, and green peas, and oats, number two in spring wheat, number three in hogs and soybeans, and number four in corn. But it is more than the crops, and the sugar beets, and the wheat. We don’t just raise livestock, we don't just produce these crops, we also process the food—the milk at Land o’ Lakes, the turkey at Jenny O, the animal feed, the SPAM at Hormel. So, when we look at this Farm Bill we have to understand that it involves not just our farmers, in fact, that is a smaller percentage of the Farm Bill than say the nutrition programs, but it also involves our entire economy, and how that all goes together from energy on down.
What I like about this Farm Bill, Madam President, is it does connect these dots, and makes sure that we have a strong economy across the board starting with our farmers, also including strong conservation efforts. And I see the Senator from North Dakota, Senator Heitkamp, here. She and I, along with Senator Hoeven, worked very hard to make sure there were strong provisions in this bill for the conservation efforts, which include retention of water for the flooding in the Fargo-Moorhead area, and making sure that we had strong efforts for agriculture research - something everyone in our country cares about as we move forward.
We streamlined the conservation program from 23 to 13 programs. The bill funds the energy title programs which this last extension did not do, and it also does a lot with agriculture research. I also had some of my amendments included, which helps beginning farmers and ranchers. That includes reducing the cost of crop insurance for beginning farmers by 10%. The second amendment helps beginning farmers access land for grazing. These are just a few of these things in this bill. We are excited about this bill and I would just end by saying, as Senator Stabenow did, this is a call for action.
The Senate has gotten its act together on this bill. We were able to work out a bipartisan compromise in the committee. We are able to get a strong vote on the floor, and now it is time for Speaker Boehner to call the House bill up so that then we can work out the differences as we should in regular order and conference committee.
Our farmers deserve nothing less. The kids that depend on these school nutrition programs deserve nothing less. And the conservation efforts in our country, those that hunt, those that fish, enjoy the outdoors, they deserve nothing less. It is time to get this bill done. We will vote on it tonight and then it goes over to the House, and I would like to get this thing out of the House by the time we are ready to head into August, where we talk to a lot of our farmers, and they have a few words to say every time I speak to them, Madam President, and I think the House would like to hear good things for a change. With that, Madam President, I yield the floor.