Jun 28 2018
Heitkamp Helps Pass Strong, Bipartisan Senate Farm Bill – Urges House to Work through Summer to Get Job Done for ND Agriculture
Senator: With Ag Economy Facing Uncertainty of Trade Wars, Passing Farm Bill On Time is Critical to Supporting Rural America
Heitkamp Successfully Included Her Proposals to Reform the ARC-County Program, Boost Young and Beginning Farmers, Help Farmers Cope with Stress and Prevent Suicide, Boost Indian Country, Create a Foot and Mouth Vaccine Bank, and Promote Exports to Cuba
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, today helped pass a strong, bipartisan Farm Bill out of the U.S. Senate which includes many provisions she fought for to support North Dakota farmers and ranchers.
The Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives must now work to find an agreement on the Farm Bill before the current bill expires in September. The Senate will continue working throughout the month of August.
“This strong, bipartisan Farm Bill is the result of years of input from North Dakota farmers and ranchers, and passage in the Senate today is a huge boost for the folks who work hard every day to support our agriculture economy,” Heitkamp said. “The Senate stands ready to work through the summer to get the job done, and I hope the House will remain at work as well to get a bipartisan, commonsense bill signed into law. Passing a robust Farm Bill has been my top priority since I came to the U.S. Senate, and after helping to write, negotiate, and pass the 2014 Farm Bill, I immediately started working on the next Farm Bill. In this bill, I again worked hard to make sure North Dakota’s priorities were included– from my provision to reform the ARC-County Program to new funding for young and beginning farmers and ranchers. I also fought to protect crop insurance, combat farm stress, support Indian Country, and bolster vital nutrition assistance programs. As our farm economy faces the uncertainty of trade wars and low commodity prices, we must pass a strong Farm Bill on time to give our farmers and ranchers the boost they need to succeed and keep or rural communities strong.”
Since helping to write, negotiate, and pass the 2014 Farm Bill, Heitkamp has spent years talking with North Dakota farmers and ranchers about their priorities to prepare for the next Farm Bill. The provisions she fought for came about after spending years talking with farmers and ranchers about their priorities, including holding Farm Bill tours across the state in 2016 and 2017 after she helped write, negotiate, and pass the 2014 Farm Bill. The Senate Agriculture Committee – which Heitkamp sits on – passed the Farm Bill earlier this month with overwhelming bipartisan support.
In the 2018 Senate Farm Bill Heitkamp successfully included several provisions she wrote, including her fix to the ARC-County program, her provisions to help young and beginning farmers, her priority to protect and expand crop insurance, and her proposal to help farmers and ranchers handle the stress of working in an industry as volatile as agriculture.
In recent weeks, Heitkamp has discussed Farm Bill priorities with farmers and ranchers in Kindred, Grand Forks, Richardton, and Dickinson. Click here for video of Heitkamp discussing her Farm Bill priorities in a speech on the floor of the Senate.
Provisions Heitkamp successfully worked to include in the bipartisan 2018 Senate Farm Bill:
- Her bill to fix 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 farmer and rancher 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 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 allow 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. 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. This builds on Heitkamp’s efforts to boost trade with Cuba going back to 2015, when she first introduced legislation to lift the ban on private banks and companies offering credit for agricultural exports to Cuba.
- 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 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.
- Her provision to provide greater certainty for the current Tribal Promise Zone designees, including the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians and the Spirit Lake Tribe. Heitkamp successfully added this provision, which was part of the CROPS for Indian Country Act that she cosponsored, during markup to ensure that four Tribal Promise Zones continue to have access to resources and technical assistance from federal agency partners.
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.