As Congress prepares to adjourn for the November elections, farmers, ranchers and business leaders from Minnesota and across the country have converged on the nation’s capitol. Their goal: to ratchet up the pressure for passage of a new five-year Farm Bill before the current bill expires at the end of this month.
In the last few weeks, I’ve met with many of our state’s agriculture leaders and I share their concern – and their frustration – that Congress has yet to complete the job of enacting a five-year Farm Bill. In Minnesota, where the agriculture industry supports one in five jobs, we have an important stake in the outcome of this debate.
The good news is that the Senate worked for months, across party lines, to complete a bill that not only will reform and modernize our nation’s agriculture programs, but also unleash the opportunity for us to create jobs and economic vitality across the country.
In June, the Senate passed this bipartisan five-year Farm Bill with an overwhelming 64 votes, something that is rare these days when many efforts get caught up in Washington gridlock.
I was very pleased that the Senate Farm Bill – backed by Minnesota farm groups – included my measures to help farmers and small businesses save money and earn income by investing in renewable energy and energy-efficient technology, as well as my provision to support beginning farmers.
Then in July, the House Agriculture Committee passed a bipartisan bill, with strong leadership from Minnesota Representatives Collin Peterson and Tim Walz, who have spent the past two months urging House leaders to bring it to the floor and pass it.
Unfortunately, this effort – which means so much to the economic future of Minnesota and every other state – has been needlessly derailed by election-year politics. For months, House leaders have steadfastly refused to bring the bill to the floor for a vote and have stated that they likely won’t before Congress adjourns in the coming days.
That’s why so many farm and business leaders – regardless of their political stripes – have come to Washington to add their support for a new Farm Bill and to demand that Congress not leave until they’ve completed one.
The Farm Bill cuts the cost of our nation’s farm policy by tens of billions of dollars, while at the same time modernizing programs and strengthening the farm safety net, the need for which was underscored by this year’s drought. It also makes important investments in renewable energy, the conservation of our land and water, dairy program stability, and in food and nutrition programs.
Just as importantly, the five-year Farm Bill creates certainty for farmers, ranchers and ag business people, who, after this year’s harvest, will have to make important long-term planting and investment decisions for their operations.
In short, we need the House leadership to hear the voices of the nation’s farm and business leaders and let the House vote to enact a five-year Farm Bill. Like the rest of the nation, Minnesota needs a bipartisan Farm Bill.
Al Franken is a U.S. Senator from Minnesota.