2012 Farm Bill passes U.S. Senate with bipartisan support
NEWS RELEASE — Washington, D.C. – Minnesota’s U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken announced today (Thursday, June 21) that the 2012 Farm Bill has passed the Senate with bipartisan support.
Klobuchar is a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, which is responsible for crafting the Farm Bill, and she worked to help secure Senate passage. The bill includes Klobuchar’s provisions helping beginning farmers and ranchers access crop insurance and land for cattle grazing, addressing captive shipping issues, and helping pork and poultry producers reduce catastrophic losses.
“Today’s bipartisan vote is a victory for this critical legislation that will help preserve and strengthen the farm safety net, conserve our natural resources, and boost homegrown energy,” Klobuchar said. “I worked hard to ensure the legislation supported our beginning farmers and ranchers as well as our pork and poultry producers, and I will continue to work to move this legislation forward and help strengthen Minnesota’s rural communities and ensure our farmers have the support they need to thrive and succeed.”
Supporting Beginning Farmers and Ranchers
The 2012 Farm Bill includes Klobuchar’s provisions that 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 provision 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 provision, which was 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 and Poultry Producers Reduce Catastrophic Losses
Pork and poultry 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 included a provision that would require a feasibility study for insuring swine producers against catastrophic losses, and she also cosponsored a provision that would require a feasibility study for insuring turkey and chicken 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.
Improving Rural Transportation and Addressing Captive Shipping Issues
Captive shipping has been a concern in rural communities in Minnesota, where agricultural producers only have access to one rail company to ship their goods to market. Klobuchar’s provision would authorize a joint study by the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Transportation to examine rural transportation issues, including captive shipping issues, to help farmers and ranchers move their products more quickly and efficiently.
The provision requires the study to be updated every three years and directs the Secretary of Agriculture to report his recommendations for improvements in rural transportation policy to the Senate and House Agriculture Committees.
Sen. Franken made the following statement after the Senate passed the 2012 Farm Bill with a strong bipartisan vote of 64-35.
“This Farm Bill is a step forward for farmers in Minnesota and across the country, and it’s fiscally responsible,” said Sen. Franken. “I’m proud that our farmers are doing their part to address the deficit by eliminating direct payments, but I’m also pleased that we passed a strong safety net – in the form of crop insurance subsidies – to protect producers when a bad year hits.
“This bill preserves the sugar program that supports jobs all over the state, provides funding to help beginning farmers, and encourages conservation. I’m most proud of an energy provision I wrote – the Rural Energy for America Program – which provides grants and loans to Minnesota farmers and rural communities for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. This is a great bill, and I’m proud of the way farmers and farm groups came together to help us pass this important piece of legislation. I’m very happy that we got this done with such strong bipartisan support, and I urge my colleagues in the House of Representatives to move quickly and pass it.”
Earlier this year, Sen. Franken and his staff held a series of Farm Bill Outreach meetings with farmers all over the state to learn what Minnesota’s agriculture community needed from the 2012 Farm Bill. The legislation passed today includes a provision introduced by Sen. Franken earlier this year, which reauthorizes the REAP program, which helps agriculture producers and businesses in rural areas invest in energy efficiency and renewable energy projects so they can cut energy bills and earn additional income by selling the energy they produce.