Jul 23 2018
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, North Dakota agricultural leaders widely praised the bipartisan 2018 Senate Farm Bill, which U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp helped write and pass as a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee.
The bill includes many key provisions Heitkamp fought for to support North Dakota farmers, ranchers, and families, including her fix to the ARC-County program, her provisions to help young and beginning farmers, her priority to protect and improve crop insurance, and her proposal to help farmers and ranchers handle the stress of working in an industry as volatile as agriculture. Click here for video of Heitkamp discussing her Farm Bill priorities in a speech on the floor of the Senate.
The Senate passed its Farm Bill at the end of June with overwhelming bipartisan support by a vote of 86-11. The Senate and House must now work on a compromise bill to get it to the president’s desk and signed into law before the current Farm Bill expires at the end of September.
Randy Melvin, President of the North Dakota Corn Growers Association: “Especially right now, North Dakota’s corn growers need a strong Farm Bill to give them the certainty and support they deserve – and that’s exactly what the Senate Farm Bill would do. We thank Senator Heitkamp for her advocacy to make sure crop insurance remains a strong safety net, improve the ARC-CO program so farmers are protected in good and tough times, and support export promotion programs that enable our farmers to reach markets abroad. It’s a good, bipartisan bill for our state and we appreciate Senator Heitkamp’s work to help pass it.”
Aaron Anderson, State Supervisor of the North Dakota FFA: “We are grateful to the U.S. Senate for its comprehensive Farm Bill which includes key provisions to support new and beginning farmers, including Senator Heitkamp’s bipartisan bill that would help boost young and new farmers as they are starting careers in agriculture. We need to build a robust next generation of farmers and ranchers, and that can only happen when we have support from Congress -- and the Senate Farm Bill would continue that support. It’s clear Senator Heitkamp understands the need to invest in future farmers. New farmers need to know that starting or taking over a farm can be tough, but there are federal programs available to them to help navigate this path and forge an important career that will help feed our state and the world.”
Tom Astrup, President and CEO of American Crystal Sugar Company: “Agriculture drives our state’s economy, and sugar production is an important job creator in the Red River Valley. Senator Heitkamp has long been a champion for agriculture, for sugar, and jobs in North Dakota, and we are thankful that she has taken such a leadership position in defending the no-cost sugar policy that underpins it all.”
Nancy Johnson, Executive Director of the North Dakota Soybean Growers Association: “The Senate passed a strong, bipartisan Farm Bill that would provide North Dakota’s soybean farmers with some needed stability amid continued trade disruptions. The bill also continues funding critical export programs which are particularly important for our growers as the vast majority of soybeans grown in North Dakota are exported. We appreciate Senator Heitkamp’s work to help advance this bill that brought together senators on both sides of the aisle to support a robust farm safety net while looking to grow the rural, ag-based economy.”
Mark Watne, President, North Dakota Farmers Union: “Senator Heitkamp has a long history of supporting family farmers, which is vital for North Dakota’s strong tradition of family farming. Passing a Farm Bill that serves North Dakota is critical to our state and it should be one of the top priorities for any member of Congress from North Dakota -- and we know that’s the case for Senator Heitkamp. We appreciate her work to craft this thoughtful bill, with Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Agriculture Committee, which stands up for North Dakota’s farmers and families, while maintaining the strong rural-urban coalition that makes the Farm Bill possible every few years.”
Scott Stofferahn, former Farm Service Agency State Director and Farm Policy Adviser to former U.S. Senator Kent Conrad: As someone who has been deeply involved in writing two separate Farm Bills, I know that the only way to get a Farm Bill approved is by crafting a bill that has broad bipartisan support. Senator Heitkamp clearly understands this. Her work to press for policies that work for North Dakota farmers and ranchers shows in the Senate Farm Bill and is greatly appreciated."
Ryan Taylor, former North Dakota State Director for U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development: “The 2018 Senate Farm Bill earned widespread bipartisan support for a reason – it puts families and farmers before politics, unlike the House Farm Bill. Historically, the Farm Bill has been a uniting force – Republicans and Democrats, urban and rural, growers and eaters. It's done that by providing safety net programs for both farmers and vulnerable families, seniors, children, and veterans – including 54,000 North Dakotans who received SNAP. Senator Heitkamp has long been an advocate for farmers and ranchers on the land, as well as families who find themselves in need of food assistance. She worked to make sure the Senate Farm Bill streamlines services and improves the efficiency of SNAP, while still protecting families and children who depend on the program to avoid going hungry. The fact is that farmers who produce food have a lot in common with the folks who need that food to be healthy and productive. We all encounter some tough times on our farms and ranches, or in our lives, and need some insurance, a safety net, to get us through it together, as a nation. The droughts, hailstorms, and low markets that hit our producers are pretty similar to the health challenges, job losses and economic struggles of life that can hit families and individuals. The Senate Farm Bill, which Senator Heitkamp worked on, faces that reality head on, and it deserves our country's support for everybody who needs to eat.”
Since helping to write, negotiate, and pass the 2014 Farm Bill, Heitkamp has spent years talking with North Dakota farmers and ranchers 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. Her meetings with farmers continue even after the Senate Farm Bill passed to gather feedback from North Dakotans. The Senate Agriculture Committee – which Heitkamp sits on – passed the Farm Bill in June, and then the Farm Bill passed in the U.S. Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support.
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.