Aug 01 2018
Senator Continues her Fight to Pass Strong, Bipartisan Farm Bill Before Current Bill Expires
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, today was appointed to the Farm Bill conference committee which is tasked with reaching a compromise agreement between the U.S. Senate and U.S. House Farm Bills. The goal is to get a bill to the president’s desk before the current Farm Bill expires at the end of September.
Heitkamp, one of 9 senators appointed to the conference committee, will use the position to advocate for North Dakota priorities and the many bipartisan wins she secured in the Senate Farm Bill to support North Dakota agriculture. As a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Heitkamp will have jurisdiction over every piece of the Farm Bill that the conference committee will discuss. 47 members of the U.S. House were appointed to the conference committee.
“It’s an honor to be named as a member of the Farm Bill conference committee. I’ve always said that as a U.S. senator from North Dakota, my top priority is getting a Farm Bill done. That’s what we did in 2014, and I want to make sure it happens again this year. It’s critical that Congress passes a bipartisan, common sense Farm Bill before the current bill expires at the end of September so we can give North Dakota farmers, ranchers, and rural communities some needed certainty amid uncertain times for agriculture,” Heitkamp said. “The Senate passed a strong, bipartisan Farm Bill, as we have historically done, which included many provisions I fought for to support North Dakota, like reforms to the ARC-County program, support for young and beginning farmers, and a strong crop insurance program. I’ll continue to get input from North Dakota producers as we get to work on the conference committee to make sure the Farm Bill addresses the needs of our state. With commodity prices falling as the administration’s trade war is escalating, we can’t waste any time or get bogged down with divisive and partisan provisions – the Farm Bill is too important to our farmers and our rural economy.”
Heitkamp helped secure Senate passage of a bipartisan Farm Bill, which passed by a historic margin of 86-11. The Senate Farm Bill was widely praised by North Dakota agriculture leaders. The U.S. House of Representatives narrowly passed a partisan Farm Bill along party lines in June.
After helping to write, negotiate, and pass the 2014 Farm Bill, Heitkamp never stopped 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.
In recent weeks, Heitkamp has discussed Farm Bill priorities with farmers and ranchers in Kindred, Grand Forks, Richardton, Dickinson, Mandan, Minot, Carrington, Wahpeton, and Langdon. 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 improve 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 efforts 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.