Jun 13 2018
Bipartisan Senate Farm Bill Passes Committee with Heitkamp Provisions to Support North Dakota Agriculture
Senator Successfully Adds Provisions to Increase Access to Cuban Market for U.S. Producers, Support Economic Development in Indian Country
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture today passed a Senate Farm Bill with overwhelming bipartisan support that includes many key provisions U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp fought for to support North Dakota farmers and ranchers.
Since the last Farm Bill passed in 2014, Heitkamp – a member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture -- has been working on the next Farm Bill to make sure it addresses the needs of North Dakota farmers and ranchers. In this bipartisan Senate Farm Bill, she successfully fought to maintain a strong farm safety net and disaster assistance programs and worked to incorporate many of her specific proposals, including her provisions to reform the ARC-County Program, help young and beginning farmers start their careers, boost nutrition assistance programs on Indian reservations, and provide resources to combat farm stress and prevent suicide.
At today’s committee markup, Heitkamp successfully introduced a bipartisan amendment with Republican U.S. Senator John Boozman of Arkansas to increase access to the Cuban market for American-grown agricultural products. It would allow the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to use its existing export market development programs to create, expand, and maintain a strong Cuban export market for U.S. agricultural producers and processors—at no additional cost to U.S. taxpayers. The amendment passed unanimously and was incorporated into the Senate Farm Bill.
Heitkamp also successfully added an amendment to establish a permanent Rural Development Tribal Technical Assistance Office to provide technical assistance across all areas of rural development funding. The provision, part of legislation Heitkamp introduced in March to ensure Native American communities are supported in the 2018 Farm Bill, would support rural business and community development, housing, rural infrastructure like electric and telecommunications services, and rural hospitals and health care.
“Bipartisan work on the Farm Bill continues in the U.S. Senate, and the progress we made today is a good sign that the Senate can quickly pass a strong Farm Bill that supports farmers, ranchers, and North Dakota’s rural communities – as it has historically done,” Heitkamp said. “Ever since I helped write, negotiate, and pass the 2014 Farm Bill, I’ve been listening to North Dakota farmers, ranchers, agriculture manufacturers, and many others about what they wanted to see in the next Farm Bill. I wanted to make sure that I understood what North Dakotans wanted to see in the next Farm Bill – I wanted to make sure their voices were heard. This bill incorporates much of what I heard from North Dakotans – and it’s a good bill for our state. As our agriculture producers face many challenges like low commodity prices, uncertain weather, and potentially harmful trade policies, I worked to include a bipartisan amendment that increases access to Cuba for our farmers and ranchers to help them boost their exports, and it is great news that this amendment was added to the Farm Bill. Agriculture is critical to North Dakota and our state’s identity – it fuels a quarter of our economy, and 90 percent of our land us used for production. This bill passed in committee with overwhelming support from Republicans and Democrats because the Farm Bill is too important to get bogged down by politics, and now we need to pass it in the full Senate.
Heitkamp helped write, negotiate, and pass the 2014 Farm Bill, and since it passed, she has been working with farmers and ranchers to make sure the 2018 Farm Bill is as strong as possible for North Dakota. In 2016, she did a Farm Bill tour across eastern North Dakota. In 2017, she did a drought and Farm Bill tour across the western part of the state to hear from North Dakotans about how the 2014 Farm Bill is working – and what still needs to be improved. She introduced a series of bills aimed at shaping the next Farm Bill to make sure it works for North Dakota, and worked to include them in the legislation unveiled today.
Heitkamp worked to include many provisions in the 2018 Farm Bill, including:
- Her bill to fix to the ARC-County Program to help farmers when commodity prices fall to damaging levels. Heitkamp introduced her bipartisan bill with U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) in October 2017. It specifically responds to concerns from North Dakotans and would direct the Farm Service Agency to use the more widely-available data from the Risk Management Agency as the first choice in yield calculations so that county level data is more accurate and updated, calculate safety net payments so they reflect what’s owed to producers in the physical counties where their farms are located, and make payments more accurate. The bill builds on Heitkamp’s successful effort from 2015 when she got the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to allow farmers whose land is across multiple counties to have their ARC-CO payments recalculated so those payments reflect what’s owed to them in the physical counties where their farms are located.
- Her Next Generation in Agriculture Act to provide funding and reform programs that help young and beginning farmers and ranchers enter and remain in the industry, build the next generation of farmers, and feed the country and the world. Heitkamp introduced her bipartisan bill with U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) earlier this year. It would provide permanent funding for beginning farmers and ranchers training programs, create a permanent National Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coordinator and Agricultural Youth Coordinator at the USDA, direct state USDA offices to designate an employee as the state beginning farmer and rancher coordinator, and establish a next generation agriculture technology challenge competition. The average age of a farmer in North Dakota is 57 years old, according to USDA, and the percentage of new farmers has declined since 1982. Heitkamp’s bill would help cultivate the next generation of farmers and support rural economies.
- Her priority to protect and expand crop insurance. Crop insurance is a critical part of the farm safety net, and Heitkamp has been fighting to protect and expand it so farmers have the certainty they need to get through tough times. Heitkamp worked to make sure the 2018 Farm Bill would improve access to crop insurance for veterans, beginning farmers, and fruit and vegetable growers, and she fought against the administration’s proposed cuts to crop insurance.
- Her priority to expand export opportunities for North Dakota agriculture producers. With 95 percent of the world’s consumers living outside the U.S., Heitkamp has been fighting to protect and expand export promotion programs to help North Dakota farmers sell to the world. She fought to make sure the Farm Bill would expand USDA programs to help farmers find new global markets for their goods.
- Her amendment to boost trade with Cuba. Heitkamp and Boozman successfully included their bipartisan amendment to use its existing export market development programs to create, expand, and maintain a strong Cuban export market for U.S. agricultural producers and processors— at no additional cost to U.S. taxpayers. This change in USDA policy would provide some needed relief from low American commodity prices by fostering a new, reliable trade relationship, boosting agricultural export revenue, and increasing export volume for American farmers and ranchers.
- Her provision to support a foot and mouth disease vaccine bank. Heitkamp fought to secure funding in the Farm Bill for a new National Animal Disease Preparedness, Response, and Recovery Program, as well as National Animal and Veterinary Countermeasures Bank, with a priority put on foot-and-mouth disease. The threat of disease is a constant threat over a rancher’s operations, and the need for a rapid response system is crucial for our food system to be able to address any outbreaks of disease such as foot and mouth. This vaccine bank will be a help protect North Dakota’s livestock industry and our national food system.
- Her proposal to help farmers and ranchers in crisis. Heitkamp secured support for state departments of agriculture, state extension services, and non-profits to establish helplines, provide suicide prevention training for farm advocates, create support groups, and reestablish the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network. These provisions were included in the bipartisan FARMERS FIRST Act, which Heitkamp helped introduce in April to address the alarming rate of death by suicide among agricultural workers.
- Her reforms to make nutrition assistance more accessible in Indian Country. The Farm Bill includes a provision derived from Heitkamp’s Tribal Food and Housing Security Act to help tribes like Spirit Lake provide nutrition assistance to low-income households and children who are at risk of going hungry. This provision waives most or all of the match requirement for administrative costs to run the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR) programs, which many tribes use to provide healthy, affordable food options to low-income individuals and families. In Fiscal Year 2016, there were 5,661 participants receiving nutrition assistance from the FDPIR on North Dakota tribal lands.
- Her provision to support rural Native American communities. Heitkamp successfully included an amendment to establish a permanent Rural Development Tribal Technical Assistance Office to provide technical assistance across all areas of rural development funding. The provision, part of her Tribal Food and Housing Security Act to ensure Native American communities are supported in the 2018 Farm Bill, would support rural business and community development, housing, rural infrastructure like electric and telecommunications services, and rural hospitals and health care.
In addition to her work on the Farm Bill, Heitkamp has been successfully fighting to improve disaster assistance programs for North Dakota farmers and ranchers. Earlier this year, her bill to improve disaster assistance to livestock and honeybee producers by permanently removing the funding cap for the Emergency Livestock Assistance Program (ELAP) was signed into law.