Washington, D.C. – In a speech on the floor if the U.S. Senate, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar called on her colleagues to swiftly pass the Farm Bill and support the country’s farmers, ranchers, and rural communities. The 2012 Farm Bill passed the Senate Agriculture Committee with bipartisan support and now awaits a vote in the full Senate. The bill provides $23 billion in deficit reduction and includes four of Klobuchar’s amendments, including amendments to help beginning farmers and ranchers gain better access to the critical crop insurance program as well as land for grazing cattle. It also includes Klobuchar’s amendment requiring a feasibility study for insuring swine producers against catastrophic losses. Klobuchar is a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, which is responsible for crafting the 2012 Farm Bill.

“Minnesotans in rural communities and larger cities all benefit from a strong farm economy that provides jobs on the farms, mills, processing plants, equipment manufacturers, and a diverse range of high tech jobs in today’s modern agriculture,”Klobuchar said. “That’s why there is so much at stake with the 2012 Farm Bill—that’s why it is so important for us to finish a strong and effective Farm Bill that gets the job done for America’s farmers and our rural economy.”

Supporting Beginning Farmers and Ranchers

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.

Helping Pork Producers Reduce Catastrophic Losses

Pork producers are exposed to trade and food safety disruptions to their export markets, which contributes to the importance of addressing the issue of catastrophic losses. Klobuchar’s amendment would require a feasibility study for insuring swine producers against catastrophic losses.

Klobuchar has fought to keep international markets open to U.S. pork producers.  Following Russia’s decision in 2009 to refuse U.S. pork products, Klobuchar sent a letter to President Obama requesting that he use all available means to restore the normal trade of U.S. pork to Russia.  Klobuchar also worked with her colleagues to successfully reopen the Chinese market to U.S. pork exports in 2010.

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.