Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar introduced two amendments to the 2012 Farm Bill to support beginning farmers and ranchers. The amendments would help beginning farmers and ranchers gain better access to the critical crop insurance program as well as land for grazing cattle. Klobuchar is a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, which is responsible for crafting the 2012 Farm Bill and will be considering the legislation this week.

“From the food on our table to the fuel in our gas tanks, Minnesota’s family farmers are as central to our state’s economy as they are to our heritage,” Klobuchar said.“These amendments will help provide critical tools to support beginning farmers and ranchers and keep our agricultural economy strong for generations to come.  As we move forward in crafting the 2012 Farm Bill, I will continue to work to further strengthen Minnesota’s rural communities and ensure that our farmers have the support they need to thrive and succeed.”

One amendment Klobuchar introduced, cosponsored by Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), would help beginning farmers and ranchers access crop insurance by reducing the cost of insurance by 10 percent and eliminating administrative fees for these producers in their first five years. The amendment also helps beginning farmers get more coverage from the crop insurance program by changing the formula used to determine a producer’s expected production yield when they don’t have a complete established production history for a crop. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (UDSA), only 7 percent of beginning farmers and ranchers participate in the program. Crop insurance premiums are based on a farmer or rancher’s previous production history, putting beginning producers at a disadvantage and discouraging them from participating in the program altogether, leaving them more vulnerable to disasters.

Klobuchar’s second amendment, cosponsored by Senators Mike Johanns (R-NE), John Hoeven (R-ND), and Max Baucus (D-MT), would allow beginning producers to graze cattle on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres without a reduction in payments for the CRP landowner. Managed grazing can be beneficial for wildlife, encourage biodiversity, and help control invasive nonnative species and quality of vegetative cover. Waiving the penalty for allowing beginning farmers and ranchers to graze on CRP acres will help beginning producers get a start while providing valuable ecological benefits on CRP land.

The nation’s farm population is aging rapidly. In the last five years the number of farmers over the age of 75 has increased by 30 percent and the number of farmers under the age of 25 has decreased by 20 percent.  Providing a path for young men and women who want to start a farm or ranch is critical to the continued viability of the agricultural sector and the vitality of rural America.

Klobuchar has been a strong advocate for beginning farmers and ranchers.  In 2008 she worked to pass a Farm Bill which authorized funding for the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program. The program was designed to help those who have been farming for fewer than 10 years through education, training, technical assistance and outreach. Klobuchar also sponsored legislation last year, the Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Opportunity Act, to help beginning producers obtain education and training, necessary financial resources and credit, assistance for practicing sound conservation in their operations, and adequate income insurance and risk management.

Klobuchar has participated in a series of Senate Agriculture Committee hearings focused on crafting the 2012 Farm Bill, and she has had several Minnesota farmers attend to testify on agriculture issues. Klobuchar’s staff recently held a series of meetings throughout Minnesota seeking the public’s ideas and suggestions for the upcoming bill. Klobuchar is working with House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson to create a strong Farm Bill that helps farmers remain the most productive in the world while also strengthening the farm safety net to support family farmers during hard times.