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Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Published July 07 2012

Senate farm bill an overall win for farmers, rural communities

Last month, the U.S. Senate passed the 2012 farm bill on a bipartisan vote of 64-35. This five-year legislation, which sets federal priorities for America’s farmers and rural communities, is now pending in the House of Representatives.

As with any kind of major legislation, the final version of the farm bill reflects some victories, some defeats and many compromises. On balance, within the limits of current economic and political realities, I believe this legislation is a win for America as well as for Minnesota.

The 2012 farm bill will help reduce our federal budget deficit by $23 billion, while maintaining a strong farm safety net and ensuring a safe, nutritious and abundant food supply.

Specifically, it strengthens the crop insurance program, eliminates fiscally unsustainable direct payments, promotes homegrown renewable energy, maintains land conservation programs and protects nutrition and school lunch programs (which actually account for most of the spending in the farm bill).

My top priority has been to advocate for policies that will further strengthen Minnesota’s rural economy and ensure that our farmers continue to have the support they need to thrive and succeed. The 2012 farm bill, as passed by the Senate, does this. The economic stakes can hardly be overstated.

Agriculture continues to be a great economic success story for America. It’s one of the few industries in which we enjoy a trade surplus.

In fact, we enjoy a very large trade surplus.

Last year the U.S. exported more than $137 billion in farm products, a record high resulting in a trade surplus of $42 billion.

Agriculture also continues to be a great economic success story for Minnesota. Although we’re only 21st in the country for population, we rank fifth for agriculture production.

Nationally, our state is first in turkey production, as well as in sugar beets and green peas. We rank second in spring wheat; third in hogs and soybeans; and fourth in corn.

We’re not just talking about economic benefits for farmers in the fields.

Agriculture is a key source of wealth for rural communities and many other industries in Minnesota. Think of grain milling, pork and turkey processing, and ethanol and biodiesel production. Plus, Minnesota is home to some of the best-known brand-name food companies in the world.

Because Minnesota’s economy depends more on agriculture than most other states, we’ve been in a better position to ride out the worst of the economic troubles in recent years. It’s one reason why our unemployment rate of 5.6 percent is significantly better than the national average of 8.2 percent.

For Minnesota, the farm bill includes several provisions I introduced:

Finally, one of the most important features of the new farm bill is something that’s very simple: continuity.

Every day, farmers must contend with the vagaries of weather, commodity markets and international trade. The last thing they need is a federal farm policy that’s also unpredictable.

Now is the time for the House to pass the farm bill and send it along for the president’s signature.

Klobuchar, D-Minn. is a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee.