Sen. Franken Turns up Heat on Negotiators to Pass Farm Bill by Years End
Franken and bipartisan group of Senators pushing for inclusion of Farm Bill in end-of-year package
Today, U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and a bipartisan group of his colleagues sent a letter to key Senate leaders urging them to include a five-year Farm bill in any end-of-year legislative package.
Sen. Franken said that a reauthorized Farm bill is critical to ensuring that farmers have the certainty they need to plan for next year and to prevent disaster in the agricultural economy.
"Agriculture is critically important to Minnesota's economy, and we need to pass a Farm Bill and we need to do it before the end of the year," said Sen. Franken. "Without a bill, farmers in Minnesota and across the country are facing unnecessary uncertainty about what policies will be in place and they can't plan for next year. Already our dairy farmers are operating without a critical safety net. I'm continuing to press my colleagues to include the Senate's bipartisan Farm Bill in any legislative package that we pass this year. The Farm Bill not only contains savings and creates jobs, but most importantly it allows our producers to plan."
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack last week told Sen. Franken he supports his push to get a comprehensive Farm Bill enacted before the current bill expires at the end of the year. Earlier in the week Sen. Franken sent his own letter to Senate leadership requesting that they include the Senate-passed Farm Bill in any deal brokered to address the nation's fiscal challenges. Earlier this year, the Senate passed a comprehensive Farm Bill that cut billions of dollars in spending and includes a number of provisions written by Sen. Franken.
The Farm Bill passed by the Senate includes a key provision introduced by Sen. Franken that 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.
The bipartisan letter was signed by signed by 33 of Sen. Franken's Senate colleagues.
The full text of Sen. Franken's letter can be read below.
Dear Majority Leader Reid and Minority Leader McConnell:
Last June, the Senate came together and passed a strong bipartisan farm bill that would help producers manage risk, create jobs and reduce the deficit and debt. It was not an easy task, but members from both sides of the aisle came together and passed farm policies that cut the deficit by over $23 billion while making smart, common-sense reforms that ensure the farm safety net works for both the American taxpayer and the American agricultural producer.
Our country's farmers and ranchers produce the highest quality, lowest cost food supply in the world, and they need strong farm policies to ensure they can continue providing our nation with a safe and reliable food source. Thankfully, the 2008 farm bill coverage for most programs extends throughout the 2012 crop year. But as the 2012 harvest rolls to an end, farmers and ranchers are already working with their bankers to plan for the 2013 crop. In many parts of the United States, they have already seeded their 2013 winter wheat.
Agriculture supports over 16 million jobs in our country and is the heart of many rural economies across the United States. In order for our farmers and ranchers to plan for their future, it is imperative that we provide them the certainty of a full five-year farm bill. While our farmers produce a domestic supply of food, fiber and fuel, American agricultural products also contribute to a trade surplus. Just this year, the U.S Department of Agriculture reported that agriculture exports for fiscal year 2013 are projected to reach a record of $143 billion in 2013, resulting in an agricultural trade surplus of over $26 billion.
While the increase in agriculture exports is welcomed news, our producers are still struggling from the extreme drought, spring deep freeze, and other weather disasters across the country this past season. To date, 2,196 counties are currently under primary USDA drought disaster designations. As the historic drought conditions persist, farmers could suffer from the impacts of the drought in the 2013 crop year as well. Congress has serious challenges to meet before the end of the year; including the farm bill which can help us cut the debt and create jobs.
With each passing day, the difficulty of enacting a farm bill before the end of this Congress grows. Congress must do the responsible thing and pass a full, five year reform farm bill. Accordingly, we urge you to consider folding in the Senate's strong bipartisan bill in any end-of-year package.
American farmers and ranchers put affordable food on our tables, bring in dollars from around the globe with their world-class products, and continue in our strong agricultural tradition. These are some of the hardest workers in the United States, and it is our turn to show them Washington is fighting for rural America.