Klobuchar’s bipartisan legislation to boost exports and ease shipping backlogs was signed into law earlier this month
MOORHEAD – At a 2022 Midwest Agriculture Summit panel titled “Strengthening Our Voice in Washington,” U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, highlighted her bipartisan efforts to support Minnesota agriculture.
“I'm just looking forward…in terms of what the solutions are for us going forward. That means a strong Farm Bill. That means taking on the supply chain and cost issues. And it means doing everything we can, as we always have, when it comes to ag, of working across the aisle to get solutions and get things done,” Klobuchar noted.
Klobuchar underscored how the Ocean Shipping Reform Act, her bipartisan legislation with Senator John Thune (R-SD) which was signed into law earlier this month, will boost agricultural exports by helping to fix supply chains and ease ongoing shipping backlogs.
“Senator Thune and I just passed a bill…on international shipping. And this came out of really outrageous increases in rates not just for farmers, but for manufacturers as well. Four times in one year the container rates went up, profits soared and they're all international shipping conglomerates,” said Klobuchar. “So, Thune and I got together and came up with some…practical solutions of giving the Maritime Commission the authority to crack down on these price increases and make sure that when they are exporting containers, they don't [just] contain air.”
Klobuchar also pointed to her bipartisan efforts to address ongoing workforce shortages affecting the agricultural sector. In April, Klobuchar and Senators John Cornyn (R-TX), Chris Coons (D-DE), and Thom Tillis (R-NC) called on the Biden administration to address the current green card and visa backlogs to help meet workforce needs. In March, she joined a bipartisan group of colleagues in urging the Biden administration to increase the number of available H-2B visas for temporary workers, which are critical to seasonal tourism businesses.
Klobuchar’s remarks as delivered are given below:
Good to see everyone. So whenever I come here, I always think–to Fargo, to an ag Summit–I think about something actually that Colin once told me when I was starting out running. And I go and meet with him. And he says to me, you know, don't worry about all the details of this Farm Bill, because there's only ten people in the entire country that really understand it, and nine of them live in North Dakota. So I assume that you are all in this room right now.
And right now, number one, you all know that we are heading into a new Farm Bill, so we're excited about that. Up here, clearly the sugar program [is] really, really important. I've been a big believer in that program - fending off a lot of attacks, as has John [Hoeven] in the past. And also, I'm pleased to know that the agreement that we made, actually during the Trump administration, with the Commerce Secretary with Mexico, solved some problems. We all worked on that. And we're always watching the implementation of that. Other issues that are on my mind are, of course, keeping the safety net in place. The disaster relief, we saw that full fledged with the weather problems we had in the last year. I appreciated the remarks of Robert on climate and some of the things that USDA is doing on that front. But looking at more permanent disaster relief, making sure that we are responding to the avian flu and other things we're seeing. And then just looking forward because we can always build on the Farm Bill, but want to make sure we keep in the strongest parts of it.
Next thing on my mind, of course, on all your minds: supply chain. I am personally obsessed with the workforce issue, with our unemployment down in Minnesota to 2 percent, one of the, if not the lowest, nationally. I am all in on immigration reform, work permits, raising the visa numbers, and doing whatever we can, because I don't want to start losing business to other countries. And this goes way beyond the ag sector, honestly. It's tourism and so many things in our state and I'm just hoping, as we have done in the past, Senator Hoeven and I, that we can get together on this issue whether it's in the lame duck or whether it's early next year. We have got to move forward on that. As well as, Robert pointed out, incentives to get more young people into agriculture and the like. And then other things. Senator Thune and I just passed a bill that, actually, the head of the Farm Bureau introduced the President when he signed it during the signing ceremony, on international shipping. And this came out of really outrageous increases in rates not just for farmers, but for manufacturers as well. Four times in one year the container rates went up, profits soared and they're all international shipping conglomerates. So, Thune and I got together as did Johnson over in South Dakota, Republican House member, as well as Garamendi in California and came up with some, I think, pretty practical solutions of giving the Maritime Commission the authority to crack down on these price increases and make sure that when they are exporting containers, they don't contain air. What they've been doing is bringing in stuff but then not always taking our stuff. Huge issue in rural America and huge issue in manufacturing. I think, workforce, as I already mentioned, would be a great help on the supply side. And then just understanding that we've come out, as Robert explained, out of this pandemic. We see as the Mayor of Duluth, where I'm going later today, sees the lighthouse on the horizon. I think that's a nice way of saying it.
But we also know that Ukraine has contributed to our supply chain issues. So I'm just looking forward, not backwards in terms of what the solutions are for us going forward. That means a strong Farm Bill. That means taking on the supply chain and cost issues. And it means doing everything we can, as we always have, when it comes to ag, of working across the aisle to get solutions and get things done. And last thing I’ll mention. There's another pending bill which is the computer chip bill and if we think about precision agriculture and the future for farm equipment and the like, making sure that we are manufacturing more of the semiconductors here in the U.S., which will build on the work we did in the bipartisan infrastructure bill. And very proud of Senator Hoeven and Senator Cramer both supported that bill. We all joined forces on that, which included significant funding when it came to broadband, which is going to be so key going forward with precision ag and dealing with our future. So thank you very much. Excited to answer questions and hear my colleagues. Thank you.