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Sen. Franken: Passing Five-year Farm Bill Should Be a Top Congressional Priority

Says Current Temporary Measure Lacks Certainty Needed by Farmers in Minnesota and Across the Country

Thursday, February 7, 2013

U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) said today that Congress needs to make enactment of a five-year Farm Bill a top priority this year to give farmers and ranchers in Minnesota and across the country the certainty they need to plan for future operations.

In a conference call with Minnesota reporters Thursday, Sen. Franken said he's backing a new five-year Senate measure that was introduced by Senate leaders as a priority bill when the new Congress began last month. Currently, federal farm policy is governed by a temporary Farm Bill extension that expires in September.

Joining Sen. Franken on the call was Paul DeBriyn, President and CEO of AgStar Financial Services, who outlined some of the difficulties that uncertainty over future farm policy poses for producers in Minnesota and across the country.

"I'm very disappointed in the temporary measure we were forced to enact last year," Sen. Franken said. "Not only does it lack the certainty our farm community needs in order to plan, but it also shortchanges investments in conservation and energy programs, assistance for beginning farmers and ranchers, and a number of other important programs. The new five-year Farm Bill I'm pushing in the Senate will provide certainty for our producers, at the same time it saves tens of billions of dollars for taxpayers and strengthens the farm safety net. We need to get it enacted as soon as possible."

In the new Congress, Sen. Franken has cosponsored legislation similar to the five-year measure that passed the Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support in 2012. Last year, House leaders blocked passage of a five-year bill, forcing the enactment of the temporary extension set to expire in September. Sen. Franken said he is hopeful that House leaders will be more open to the legislation this year.

Key Farm Credit Official Says Uncertainty Hurting Farmers, Ranchers

Paul DeBriyn, of AgStar Financial Services, said farmers are facing the rising cost of inputs like land, machinery and equipment as well as another year of possible weather disasters, making it important for them to have certainty about farm policy and about the farm safety net before they invest thousands, even millions of dollars in their operations.

He also said the lack of a five-year Farm Bill is hurting young and beginning farmers, many of whom have seen their applications for guarantees at their local Farm Service Agency (FSA) office go unprocessed due to the uncertainty of federal farm funding. 

Sen. Franken to Hold Weekend Farm Bill Meetings in Southeast Minnesota

On Saturday, Sen. Franken will hold two Farm Bill meetings in St. Charles and in Albert Lea in southeast Minnesota, saying he not only wants to hear about what should be in a new five-year Farm Bill, but also what problems the temporary measure that expires in September poses to producers in the state.

Sen. Franken said in the coming weeks he will be pressing Congressional appropriators to ensure funding for key energy programs is maintained while the temporary Farm Bill is in place because those investments are critical to jobs and economic development in communities across Minnesota.

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