Senator Heitkamp fights for rural America every day in the U.S. Senate. In North Dakota, agriculture isn’t just an industry – it’s a way of life. Agriculture makes up 25 percent of North Dakota’s economic base, and nearly 24 percent of the workforce is engaged in production agriculture. At the same time, the risks in agriculture have never been higher. Factors beyond a farmer’s control – disastrous weather, drought, infestations, price collapse, and adverse trade policies – can put entire family farms on the line, and our rural way of life at risk.
Working to Provide Certainty for North Dakota Farmers and Ranchers
Senator Heitkamp knows that for any U.S. senator from North Dakota, being on the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture and fighting for a strong Farm Bill should be priority number one. As soon as she joined the U.S. Senate, Senator Heitkamp began working to secure a position on the Agriculture Committee, and she immediately got to work helping to write, negotiate, and pass the 2014 Farm Bill, which stood up for North Dakota farmers, ranchers, and low-income families.
After passing the 2014 Farm Bill, Senator Heitkamp immediately started working on the next Farm Bill and has made it a priority to continuously meet with and listen to farmers and ranchers in North Dakota. As disasters like blizzards and droughts affected North Dakota, Senator Heitkamp led successfully, bipartisan efforts to expedite assistance to North Dakota farmers and ranchers, and to boost staffing at local FSA offices to better assist farmers and ranchers in need.
Key Leadership Role
After securing several provisions in the historically bipartisan Senate Farm Bill in 2018, Senator Heitkamp was one of nine senators appointed to serve on the Farm Bill conference committee tasked with reaching a compromise agreement between the U.S. Senate and U.S. House Farm Bills.
Senator Heitkamp was also chosen for a leadership position in the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture by her colleagues when she was named Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Rural Development and Energy. In this position, Senator Heitkamp oversees and helps shape the direction for renewable energy and economic development policies for rural America.
Defending Crop Insurance
Crop Insurance is the backbone of the farm safety net, and Senator Heitkamp has successfully fought against attempts to cut the Federal Crop Insurance Program. She made sure the 2014 Farm Bill included robust support for Crop Insurance, and listened to concerns of North Dakota farmers and ranchers and proposed solutions – like reforms to the ARC-County Program – to continuously improve the assistance available to farmers affected by low commodity prices or natural disasters. In 2015, Senator Heitkamp successfully worked to help reverse harsh cuts to the federal crop insurance program in the budget Congress passed.
Senator Heitkamp also played an important role in improving the prevented plant crop insurance policies for the state of North Dakota. Prior to recent changes that were made to the crop insurance program, great ambiguity surrounded which acres qualified for crop insurance coverage that were planted under “normal weather conditions.”
Recognizing the problems stemming from uncertainty regarding what constitutes normal weather, Senator Heitkamp invited top officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to North Dakota to hear from farmers and insurance providers. Based on the input the USDA Risk Management Agency received from Senator Heitkamp and the growers of North Dakota, prevented plant crop insurance policies were reformed to provide a more reliable standard for insurance coverage qualification.
Supporting Young and Beginning Farmers
Senator Heitkamp knows farming and ranching is a way of life in North Dakota – and to make sure it stays that way, she’s working to support young and beginning farmers and ranchers to cultivate the next generation of family farmers. She introduced the bipartisan Next Generation in Agriculture Act to support programs that help new and beginning farmers and ranchers enter and remain in the industry, build the next generation of farmers, and feed the country and the world. Her bill was included in the bipartisan Senate-passed Farm Bill. The average age of a farmer is 57 years old in North Dakota, and Senator Heitkamp’s bill would help build the next generation of farmers.
Pushing Back Against Waters of the U.S. Rule
Waters of the U.S. was one of the top regulatory concerns Senator Heitkamp heard about from farmers and ranchers. As a result, she has pushed back against the previous administration’s Waters of the U.S. rule -- an unworkable federal rule which created uncertainty about the waters EPA can regulate, hurting family farmers and ranchers, and rural communities. She negotiated and helped introduce a strong bipartisan bill in 2015 to do away with the Waters of the U.S. rule. Senator Heitkamp’s bill offered a compromise fix by scrapping the harmful rule and sending it back to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, requiring the agency to take into account the concerns of farmers and ranchers whose livelihoods could be impacted given the scope of the rule. In 2017, Senator Heitkamp joined the President as he signed an executive order effectively undoing the previous administration’s Waters of the U.S. rule.
Fixing Trucking Regulations for Livestock Transporters
U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp introduced bipartisan legislation to ease the burden of the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) regulations set to go into effect for livestock and insect haulers later this year.
After leading a bipartisan effort to get a delay in the new ELD rules signed into law, Senator Heitkamp and U.S. Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) introduced the Transporting Livestock Across America Safely (TLAAS) Act to address the concerns of livestock haulers and the agriculture producers who rely on them to safely and quickly transport their goods.
Senator Heitkamp has heard concerns from many North Dakotans about the new ELD rules and has been fighting for clarity and common sense in the regulations.