U.S. Senator Tina Smith Helps Pass Bipartisan Senate Farm Bill


WASHINGTON, D.C. [06/28/18]—After taking a leading role in making sure Minnesota priorities are included in the 2018 Farm Bill as a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, U.S Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) was proud to help pass the bipartisan legislation in the Senate today.

The Senate Farm Bill includes measures authored and championed by Sen. Smith—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 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.

“This Farm Bill is an example of how we can come together and get things done in Washington when we work together,” said Sen. Smith. “I’m proud to have been able to make sure Minnesota priorities are included in this bipartisan legislation because I want to provide stability and predictability to the farmers, ranchers, foresters, rural communities, and tribes who are vital to our economy and way of life. And I want to thank all the Minnesotans who shared their input with me leading up to this day—and now it’s time for the spirit of bipartisanship to continue so what we can get a strong Farm Bill signed into law.”

The Senate Farm 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 Margin Protection Program—which will now be known as Dairy Risk Coverage—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, foresters, landowners, and rural community leaders—as well as experts on nutrition, health care, 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.

The Senate-passed Farm Bill includes several provisions authored and championed by Sen. Smith, including the following measures:

Broadband: The Farm Bill includes Senator Smith’s Community Connect Grant Program, which helps bring broadband services to communities that don’t have it.

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.

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: The 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.

Expanding Use of Renewable Energy: Includes many parts of Sen. Smith’s Farm Bill energy road map, like 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.

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.

Maintains Sugar Program: Preserves the Sugar Program, which Sen. Smith advocated for to the Ag Committee.

Strengthens Dairy Safety Net: Secures $100 million to the program and providing a premium discount to small and medium farms.

Organics and Local Foods: Reauthorizes Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) with mandatory funding.

The Farm Bill also create the Local Agriculture Market Program, which offers grants for developing local or regional food systems.

Other: Directs USDA Secretary to conduct a study on the economic viability of domestic production and sale of industrial hemp. This language comes from the Hemp Farming Act, which Sen. Smith cosponsored. This legislation also allows states and tribes to regulate local hemp production. This is from the Hemp Farming Act, which Sen. Smith cosponsored.

The Senate Farm Bill is supported by individuals, groups, and organizations across Minnesota, including Paul Mackie of Minnesota State University, the Minnesota Young Farmer Coalition, Minnesota Farm Bureau, Minnesota Farmers Union, Minnesota Farmers’ Market Association, AgCountry Farm Credit Services, The Good Acre, Minnesota State Cattlemen’s Association, Crystal Sugar, Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative, Hunger Solutions, Cooperative Network, SEMCAC, Minnesota Valley Action Council, Mille Lacs Energy Cooperative, MiEnergy Cooperative, and the Consolidated Telecommunications Company (CTC).

“Senator Smith’s commitment to rural America is deeply appreciated. During her many constituent meetings discussing the Farm Bill, she included those who while not directly involved in farming but understand rural and agricultural community needs writ large,” said Paul Mackie, Professor and University Assessment Coordinator at Minnesota State University in Mankato. “I strongly advocated for the inclusion of language in the Farm Bill that supports improving both the quality and reach of rural broadband technology. Rural communities continue to struggle with the digital divide due to lack of adequate internet access. Rural residents deserve the same level of access to information, health care, and services as those in more populated areas, and we as a nation should not continue to relegate rural communities to a technological second-class status.  Ms. Smith understands this, and has fought the good fight to support technological equality.”

“The Senate’s Farm Bill is an enormous step forward in investing in the next generation of farmers,”said Eric Sannerud of Minnesota Young Farmer Coalition. “We whole heartedly support the streamlined Farming Opportunities, Training, and Outreach Program and applaud the Senate for passing this bill!”

“The Farm Bill the Senate has put together addresses many of the needs of family farmers,” said Gary Wertish, President of Minnesota Farmers Union. “It keeps crop insurance as a priority. The restructured dairy program allocates more funds to support producers. And it has strong funding for rural development programs such as the Rural Energy for America Program. We thank Sen. Smith and the Senate Agriculture Committee for working well together on this bill.”

“Minnesota Farmers’ Market Association supports the Senate Farm Bill because of its broad base in providing resources to so many communities,” said Kathy Zeman, Executive Director of Minnesota Farmers’ Market Association. “It’s a great value for the dollars expended; the money that comes through the USDA Specialty Crop Block Grants, the Farmers’ Market and Local Food Promotion Program Grants, benefit entire communities – farmers and consumers. These programs help build resilient communities to support themselves.

“MFMA represents the 250+ farmers’ markets and 4,000+ farmers’ market vendors in all 87 counties in Minnesota,” Kathy continued. “We provide services, programs and leadership to our farmers’ markets to grow farmers, increase food access, and build resilient communities.”

“AgCountry Farm Credit Services supports the bipartisan Senate Ag Committee Farm Bill. We thank the Committee for their hard work in crafting this bill. With today’s farm economy, our farmers need a strong safety net.” –AgCounty Farm Credit Services 

“MSCA leadership is happy the Farm Bill is progressing with bipartisan support in the Senate,” said Krist Wollum, Minnesota State Cattlemen’s Association President. “We’re pleased this bill contains many of the Cattlemen’s priorities!”

“The Senate’s farm bill is an enormous step forward in investing in the next generation of farmers. We whole heartedly support the streamlined Farming Opportunities, Training, and Outreach Program and urge the Senate to pass this bill!” –Minnesota Hunger Solutions

“Cooperative Network congratulates the U.S. Senate on passage of the Farm Bill. As a member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, we appreciate Sen. Smith’s leadership in helping to shepherd this legislation through the process,” stated Dan Smith, President & CEO of Cooperative Network. “Minnesota’s agriculture, dairy, farm supply, and sugar beet processing cooperatives play an extremely important role in state’s economy. The Farm Bill contains measures that will continue to bolster the nation’s agricultural sector, as well as assist our co-ops and their member-owners throughout the state.”

“Broadband will help those in rural America stay connected to today’s online commerce and services,” said Wayne Stenberg, Executive Director of SEMCAC. “Many of our Agency’s applications are being provided via our website and secure communication is happening by e-mail. It is essential that we continue to strengthen communication lines to our rural communities.”

“Senator Tina Smith has been an avid and aggressive supporter in ensuring all Americans have access to robust and affordable broadband connections,” said Kristi Westbrock of CTC. “Senator Smith understands the urban rural divide in broadband availability and makes a commitment to this through the broadband pilot program in the Farm Bill.”