WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp today joined the Senate in overwhelmingly passing a five-year, bipartisan Farm Bill.
Heitkamp, a member of the Agriculture Committee, worked tirelessly during her first 13 months in office to shape the bill so that it works for North Dakotans. The Farm Bill, which reduces the deficit by more than $23 billion and supports 16 million jobs, now goes to the President for his signature.
"Over two years ago, well before I took office, I pledged to work tirelessly to get a long-term Farm Bill passed," said Heitkamp. "While I’m proud to follow through on this promise, that is not why I’m so satisfied today. Finally, we stepped up and gave our hardworking farmers and ranchers the certainty they absolutely deserve to do their jobs.
“In North Dakota, we live and breathe agriculture. It creates jobs, supports our families, boosts our communities, and feeds our kids. And as much as we know how important agriculture is for North Dakota, we also know how important North Dakota’s products are to the country and the rest of the world. That’s why a Farm Bill is so essential for all of us.
“Working in lockstep with North Dakotans throughout this whole process, I fought to shape this legislation so it will work for our agriculture producers. From enhanced crop insurance, to investments in rural development and biofuel production, to needed livestock disaster assistance, this Farm Bill will benefit so many farmers, ranchers, and consumers throughout our state.
“The partisanship in Congress has been deeply frustrating, but this Farm Bill has been a bright light. Working together – Republicans and Democrats – we were able to produce a strong Farm Bill that works in our best interests. That’s what compromise and cooperation are all about. I hope that bipartisan approach continues as we work on other important issues for North Dakota and our country.
“But our job isn’t done. Now, I’ll work to make sure this bill is properly implemented, and continue to listen and advocate for North Dakotans, to make sure this law works for them.”
The compromise Farm Bill includes many important priorities Heitkamp fought for, including provisions for:
- This Farm Bill modernizes the farm program to provide a safety net for growers so they can survive in difficult times, and thrive in good times. This is achieved by offering farmers the choice of participating in a revenue program called Agricultural Risk Coverage or a price support program called Price Loss Coverage.
- The bill invests $6 billion in the crop insurance program to better reflect production histories, and give producers the certainty they need to put their crop in the ground. It provides additional support for beginning farmers and creates a new Supplemental Coverage Option for growers to buy coverage beyond the maximum currently allowed.
- Heitkamp stopped multiple attempts to gut the Sugar Program. If sugar opponents had succeeded, our sugar producers would have faced unfair competition from other countries that excessively subsidize the product.
- The bill supports farmers who experience wet seasons by making sure there is fair treatment of acres prevented from planting. Any update to production history will count acres prevented from planting as part of production histories.
- This Farm Bill makes sure hardships can be assessed on a farm-by-farm basis, not on the county level. With North Dakota’s large counties, serious hardship for producers can be overlooked when losses are determined on a county-wide basis.
- The legislation invests in a serious permanent livestock disaster program. During an early severe snowstorm last October, we saw firsthand how important it is to provide an emergency safety net for our ranchers when disaster strikes. The disaster relief is backdated to October 2011, so North Dakota’s ranchers who experienced losses last year will be covered.
- Heitkamp beat back efforts to repeal Country of Origin Labeling. Heitkamp thinks this policy, which tells consumers where their food was born, raised, and slaughtered, is a good idea and will continue to promote its implementation.
- The bill continues Heitkamp’s efforts to bring fairness to livestock competition. While opponents have repeatedly tried to repeal the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards (GIPSA) Act rules, Heitkamp helped reaffirm in this bill that we need to level the playing field.
Deficit Reduction and Jobs
- The bill reduces the deficit by $23 billion. These cuts are accomplished through targeted savings without ripping crucial safety net programs out from under families who rely on them.
- The Farm Bill supports 16 million agriculture jobs around the country, including thousands in North Dakota.
- Savings are achieved in nutrition programs by addressing fraud and misuse. These changes do not remove anyone from food assistance programs and they make sure every person receives 100% of the benefits they are intended to under the current rules of the program.
- This Farm Bill makes historic investments in biofuel infrastructure and development. Heitkamp helped include $880 million to develop and improve the renewable fuel industry, furthering the United States along the path to North American energy independence.
- The Farm Bill provides crucial support for ethanol and biofuels. North Dakota is home to four ethanol plants and one of the largest biodiesel plants in North America. The Farm Bill invests in the installation of blender pumps, funds energy efficiency upgrades on farms and in rural communities, produces renewable energy from biofuel and wind energy sources, and provides assistance to stimulate energy crop plantings.
- This Farm Bill creates a water retention program to address flooding in the Red River Valley.
- This Farm Bill creates a buyout program for flooded Devils Lake farmers. For years, Devils Lake-area producers worried if they would be able to salvage their land. Without this new buyout program, farmers would have received nothing. Instead, the Farm Bill authorizes $25 million in annual appropriations for the buyout program.
- The Farm Bill continues our decades of strong investments in research, enabling our country to continually outperform others. This Farm Bill recognizes the importance of these investments, and continues such resources for research, including important funding for programs used by land grant institutions like North Dakota State University.
- This Farm Bill provides funding for crucial trade programs that North Dakotans use, including the Market Access Program, Emerging Markets Program and the Foreign Market Development Program, enabling North Dakota to build on its already strong history of exporting many of its agriculture products. North Dakota is a major agriculture exporter, with $4.1 billion in annual exports. Agriculture exports support more than 45,000 jobs in our state.