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In Senate Speech, Sen. Franken Praises Passage of Farm Bill

Today, Senate Passed the Bipartisan Bill Which Now Heads to President’s Desk to Become Law

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) took to the Senate floor today to deliver a speech to praise the passage of the bipartisan five-year Farm Bill, which gives Minnesota's farmers, ranchers, and rural communities the certainty they need to plan for the future. You can download a video of the speech here.

After the House finally passed the bill last week, the Senate voted today to send it to the President's desk to be signed into law.

"At the end of the day, this is an incredibly important piece of legislation that I-and many colleagues on both sides of the aisle-have been working to get over the finish line," said Sen. Franken during his speech. "I'm pleased that we have finally come together to pass a bipartisan five-year Farm Bill that will make needed reforms and give farmers the certainty they need to plan for the future. The bill we have passed will not only support rural America, but our entire nation."

The Farm Bill contains several key provisions Sen. Franken championed to help Minnesota. It includes an energy section that Sen. Franken helped author with nearly $900 million of funding so that farmers, ranchers, and rural businesses can deploy renewable energy and energy efficient technologies.

This final bill also contains strong support for farmers and ranchers who are just starting out. Sen. Franken worked hard to make sure the federal government is investing in programs that help beginning farmers and ranchers.

Finally, Sen. Franken successfully fought to preserve the federal sugar program, voting to ensure that vital protections remain in place for sugar growers. The sugar industry contributes thousands of jobs and billions of dollars to the economies of Minnesota and the region.

You can read Sen. Franken's remarks as prepared for delivery below.

STATEMENT ON PASSAGE OF THE FARM BILL
Senator Al Franken (as prepared for delivery)

M. President, I'm very pleased that we were able to vote on and pass a badly-needed and long-overdue five-year Farm bill today, and that we are finally on the verge of enacting this legislation into law. With one in five Minnesota jobs connected to agriculture, passing this bill has been a top priority or mine.

I've been working on it for over two and a half years, along with a large number of my colleagues. And as I've gone all around Minnesota talking to farmers and businesses, they would tell me not only that they wanted a five-year Farm Bill, but they needed a five-year Farm bill, so that they could plan for the future. Well, finally, we've gotten it done.

There are so many important pieces to this bill, M. President, and I want to speak about a few of them today.

When I meet with farm leaders and visit farms all across Minnesota, I hear over and over again about the importance of providing farmers with a strong safety net. There is a lot of uncertainty when it comes to farming - crops are vulnerable to drought, to excessive rain, to disease, and to other natural disasters. In 2012, for example, we witnessed a terrible drought that devastated the nation's corn and soybean crops, and forced ranchers to cull their livestock.

Well, all the safety net programs in the bill are important because they protect our farmers and ranchers - and they also protect American consumers by making sure families have a reliable, domestically produced supply of food.

The bill provides disaster assurances for livestock producers; it contains a dairy program so that our dairy producers have the certainty that they need; and it contains a sugar program to help protect our sugar growers.

Minnesota is home to a large number of sugar growers, and the sugar industry provides thousands of good-paying American jobs - these are American jobs - and billions of dollars to the economy of our region. I fought to make sure that we kept this vital program in place.

This bill also includes crop insurance so farmers have certainty with respect to their planting decisions. And one of the things the Farm Bill does, which is really important to me and to a lot of people, is to link the crop insurance program to conservation. Minnesota farmers are good stewards of the land and understand how critical conservation is. So do our hunters and anglers. With this provision in the Farm Bill, when our farmers receive crop insurance benefits, they also agree to implement conservation practices that are good for the land and water.

In addition to a strong safety net and the conservation provisions, the bill contains many other programs that are really important to Minnesota agriculture.

For example, I pushed to include provisions to support beginning farmers. With the average age of farmers approaching sixty, we need to invest in a new generation of farmers and ranchers. And that's why the Beginning Farmer and Ranchers Program has been a priority of mine. This important program will support training and education for beginning farmers, and it will help new farmers overcome the steep financial burdens they face when just starting out.

I'm also really proud of the comprehensive Energy Title of the bill, which I helped to author. The energy sector in agriculture produces jobs and supports rural communities in Minnesota and across the country. The Energy Title includes programs like the Rural Energy for America Program-or REAP-which provides farmers and rural businesses with loans and grants so they can invest in energy efficiency and renewable energy to reduce their energy bills. It also includes programs to help rural America develop advanced biofuels that will help wean the nation off of foreign oil. And it includes programs to help move the nation away from a petroleum-based economy to one where products are increasingly made out of home-grown renewable biomass.

Those are just some of the important things I fought for in this bill. And the bill does all of these critically important things while also reducing the deficit by billions of dollars.

Like all bipartisan compromises, the bill is not perfect. In particular, I am not happy with the cuts to the nutrition program on which many low-income families rely. I am somewhat relieved that in the end, these cuts were closer to what was in the original Senate bill than the draconian cuts that the House of Representatives had called for and passed in their bill. And I appreciate the tough job that my colleagues had on their hands to arrive at a final compromise.

At the end of the day, this is an incredibly important piece of legislation that I-and many colleagues on both sides of the aisle-have been working to get over the finish line. I'm pleased that we have finally come together to pass a bipartisan five-year Farm Bill that will make needed reforms and give farmers the certainty they need to plan for the future. The bill we have passed will not only support rural America, but our entire nation.

Thank you.

 

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