This week, U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.), a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, told top House-Senate Farm Bill negotiators that producers in Minnesota and across the country are hurting from low farm prices and trade uncertainties, and highlighted the need to pass the Farm Bill by the end of the year.
Sen. Smith said the Farm bill will provide certainty for producers, and will give them the tools to deal with low prices and jump-start the farm economy in Minnesota and our nation. In a letter sent yesterday to Chairman Sen. Pat Roberts, Ranking Member Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Chairman Rep. Mike Conaway, and Ranking Member Rep. Collin Peterson of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees, Sen. Smith followed up on an earlier call reaffirming the urgent need to pass a strong, bipartisan Farm Bill.
“In my earlier letter, I outlined the importance of several provisions that were included in the Senate-passed Farm Bill. These key provisions — funding for broadband expansion, a robust energy title, conservation programs, and investments in beginning and Native farmers and ranchers — are critical for the success of Minnesota’s agriculture sector and are necessary components of a strong Farm Bill,” wrote Smith. “These provisions were accepted in the Senate bill, which passed with an overwhelming bipartisan majority of 86-11. I urge the conferees to follow the Senate’s lead and work on a bipartisan basis to craft a final conference report.
“Producers and rural communities in Minnesota depend on many Farm Bill programs. As farmers face falling commodity prices and uncertain trade markets, the urgency of passing a strong Farm Bill is very clear. “I thank you for the work you have done thus far and look forward to the passage of a Farm Bill as soon as possible. Farmers and producers around the country deserve the certainty it will provide.”
Smith also recently outlined several bipartisan steps the Administration and top farm and trade officials can take to help farmers, including allowing the sale of gasoline blended with 15% ethanol to be sold year-round. This month, the Administration announced that the EPA will begin the process of allowing such sales.
Smith fought for and won a spot on the Agriculture Committee when she arrived in the Senate in January. In preparation for the Farm Bill debate, she formed her “Farm Bill Working Group” to hear from farmers, ranchers, and rural community leaders — as well as experts on nutrition, energy, and conservation — to make sure Minnesota priorities are included in the legislation. She and her staff have traveled across Minnesota to hear from Minnesotans on the state’s Farm Bill priorities.
Smith authored and championed several measures in the Senate Farm Bill, including her legislative roadmap for the energy title of the Farm Bill, her provision to expand access to much-needed broadband in rural communities and tribal areas across the country, and a provision to create a U.S. Department of Agriculture “Rural Health Liaison” who will work with other federal health officials to address rural America’s unique health care needs. The bill also funds Smith’s efforts to help younger and non-traditional farmers get started in the business, and it responds to her call to preserve the Sugar Program which supports thousands of jobs across the Red River Valley in Northwest Minnesota.