Says Panel Included Several Provisions She Fought for That Will Help Minnesota
Farmers, Businesses and Communities, While Bolstering Jobs and Economic Growth
WASHINGTON, D.C. [06/13/18]—U.S Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) said the bipartisan Farm Bill she helped push through the Senate Agriculture Committee today is important not only for Minnesota farmers, ranchers and communities across the state - who will greatly benefit from the measure - but also for the state’s economy as a whole. The Committee’s action gets the Farm Bill over a major hurdle on its way to being signed into law.
The legislation includes several measures authored and championed by Sen. Smith—including her legislative roadmap for the energy title of the Farm Bill,and her provision to expand access to much-needed broadband internet services in rural communities across the country. Beyond that, the Committee included the provision championed by Senator Smith 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 Sen. 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.
“Today’s action by the Senate Agriculture Committee to pass the 2018 Farm Bill gets this important legislation over a major hurdle on the way to the finish line,” said Sen. Smith. “It touches the lives of virtually every American and is critically important to our efforts to sustain tens of thousands of jobs across our state. It not only helps farmers, ranchers and rural communities, but also will help feed thousands of Minnesota families and school children, expand the production and use of renewable energy, bolster trade and rural economic development, and guide our state’s important forestry industry. Beyond that, it will support conservation efforts, provide funding for ag research, and expand resources for our beginning and organic farmers. Now, I will push hard to get this important measure through Congress and signed into law.”
Overall, Sen. Smith said the bill would help spur job creation, trade, and economic and rural development. It includes provisions that would strengthen the key elements of the farm safety net like crop insurance and other tools to safeguard farmers from unexpected losses. It also adds $100 million to the dairy safety net, and focuses the assistance on small and medium-size farms. The Farm Bill also protects important food assistance programs that tens of thousands of Minnesota families rely upon.
Sen. 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.
Committee Includes Several Provisions Authored and Championed by Sen. Smith
The committee-passed bill included several provisions authored and championed by Sen. Smith, including the following measures:
Expanding Use of Renewable Energy: Includes many parts of Sen. Smith’s Farm Bill energy road map, including mandatory funding for the Biobased Markets Program, the Biorefinery Assistance Program, the Biomass Research and Development Program, the Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuel, and the Biomass Crop Assistance Program.
The Farm Bill also increases funding for the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) and makes additional technologies eligible for the REAP funding that Sen. Smith pushed for.
Expanding Access to Broadband Internet: the Farm Bill includes Senator Smith’s Community Connect Grant Program, which helps bring broadband internet services to communities that don’t have it.
Addressing Unique Health Care Challenges in Rural America: Creates a Rural Health Liaison position at USDA to work with other federal health agencies to address health care needs specific to rural communities.
It also includes a new National Animal Disease Preparedness, Response, and Recovery Program and funding for the National Animal and Veterinary Countermeasures Bank to deal with disease outbreaks among farm animals.
Helping New and Non-traditional Farmers get Started: Creates permanent funding for beginning farmers training programs and socially disadvantaged farmer outreach programs that Sen. Smith championed. It combines the two initiatives into a program called Farming Opportunities Training and Outreach.
Maintains Sugar Program: Preserves the Sugar Program, which Sen. Smith advocated for to the Ag Committee.
Helping Veteran Farmers: Includes provisions from Senator Smith’s Vets 2-FARM Act that would direct USDA to assist veterans with obtaining agriculture jobs after they return from service.
Conservation: The bill includes provision from Sen. Smith’s SOIL Stewardship Act that would reform the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and expand efforts to reduce carbon emissions, prevent soil erosion, and improve water quality. It also includes Sen. Smith’s amendment streamlining the transition between two working lands conservation programs – the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and CSP.
Expanding Trade Opportunities: Farm Bill includes Senator Smith’s amendment requiring the Agriculture Secretary to support greater inclusion of tribal products in Federal trade promotion efforts and activities, and it increases funding for trade promotion activities and creates permanent funding for all expiring trade promotion programs.
Indian Affairs: Includes Senator Smith’s amendment directing USDA to study the impacts of marketplace food fraud to address concerns from tribes about products that mimic unique tribal food products, like wild rice in Minnesota. It also expands forestry funding for Tribal colleges.
Forestry: Includes the bipartisan Timber Innovation Act, supported by Sen. Smith, to increase research on the use of innovative wood products.