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Celebrating the Farm Bill, Fighting to Protect it

February 26, 2016
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) , Pierce County Tribune

After painstaking negotiations and bipartisan compromise, I was proud to help get the 2014 Farm Bill across the finish line supporting 16 million American jobs, while reducing the deficit by more than $23 billion. For North Dakotans like Ellen and Charles Linderman, who have farmed outside of Carrington for 40 years, the 2014 Farm Bill helps make farming possible. Ellen and Charles work together to grow quality crops like hard red spring wheat, corn and food-grade soybeans. Their crops help feed the world, and Ellen gives back to her community through her work with the North Dakota Farmers Union, promoting agriculture and making rural America stronger. But with current commodity prices, Ellen tells me that she sees firsthand the need for safety net programs I fought to include in the Farm Bill. Those programs help farmers manage costs, so they can

continue to grow top-notch products despite low commodity prices. They also help guarantee that severe weather and flooding don't put a family's farm-or our nation's food security-in jeopardy.

The Farm Bill also contains programs to support folks who are just starting up, like 23-year-old Jordan Svenningsen of Luverne. Young farmers like Jordan are the future of agriculture. With the average age of U.S. farmers at 58 years old, it's clear we need to encourage the next generation to pursue farming and ranching. That's why I pushed for the Farm Bill to provide millions in federal funding for workshops, technical assistance, and training to help beginning farmers and ranchers like Jordan get off the ground. Those programs are key if we want our young people to continue our agricultural economy, farm their parents' and grandparents' land, and start families at home in North Dakota.

In the Farm Bill, I worked to protect and strengthen crop insurance, a critical risk management tool for farmers, and to defeat efforts to gut the sugar program. Since 2014, I've fought attempts to cut or undermine provisions in the Farm Bill that North Dakota farmers and ranchers rely on. When some members of Congress cut the crop insurance program during budget negotiations last year, I strong objected. It is wrong and irresponsible to balance the budget by re-opening the Farm Bill which many of us spent more than a year negotiating and slashing crop insurance, a program that is the bedrock of U.S. agriculture. Working with a bipartisan group of senators I sit with on the Agriculture Committee, we were able to reverse those harsh cuts last year and maintain the integrity of crop insurance.

This month the Administration again proposed cuts to crop insurance in its 2017 budget, however a reminder that we need to keep fighting for the integrity of the Farm Bill. Beyond protecting key programs, I've fought to guarantee USDA implements the Farm Bill in a way that benefits North Dakota. In November, I worked with USDA to make sure producers who farm across multiple counties could have their Agriculture Risk Coverage - County Level (ARC-CO) payments recalculated to reflect what they were owed in each physical county where they farmed. Before I pushed for this fix, payments to farmers would have been based only on payment levels in the single county each farmer used for administrative purposes rather than reflecting payments the farmer should have gotten in each county where he or she farmed. In addition, I continue to work with the U.S. Senate and USDA to discuss how we might fix ARC payment issues in Logan and Lamoure counties.

We can't let up in defending the Farm Bill. The most recent attempts to cut crop insurance show we need to be vigilant and guarded. That's why, two years after it passed, I'm already looking to 2018 when we'll need to pass the next Farm Bill. The Farm Bill is about protecting farmers and ranchers who have helped propel our state forward for generations. And the next Farm Bill must continue to build a strong agriculture economy and boost rural America well into the future. North Dakotans deserve nothing less.

 
 

 

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