When Sen. Amy Klobuchar was appointed to the Senate conference committee that would work with members of the U.S. House on a federal farm bill, she had no idea she would have to wait this long to get the leaders to the table.
After a one-year extension was approved by Congress earlier this year, the fact the farm bill is still up in the air has become a source of frustration for those who are involved in the ag industry.
Klobuchar heard some of those frustrations earlier this week when she made a tour of southern Minnesota talking with producers and ag business leaders.
Among the stops was a visit to the Berg farm near Clements where she met with the Berg family, including Richard and Fred Berg who farm in the area.
“I wanted to get out and talk with people about the farm bill,” said Klobuchar, adding she knows they are interested in the final outcome and the impact it would have on them.
After what Klobuchar called the chaos going on in Washington, D.C. in recent weeks surrounding the government shutdown, there is an increased level of interest in getting something accomplished. That something, she believes is the farm bill.
The committee is scheduled to meet next week.
One popular proposal of the federal farm bill proposal approved in the Senate is that it includes $24 billion in debt reduction, which Klobuchar said is appealing for those in Congress.
One of the most significant cuts being proposed is in the SNAP program (food stamps), with the senate proposing a $4 billion reduction. The challenge, however, Klobuchar told the group who had gathered at the Berg farm, is the House proposal includes nearly $40 billion in cuts to SNAP. The House bill, which was approved more recently, also splits the food stamp program from the rest of the farm bill, which Klobuchar said has gained little interest elsewhere.
“None of the farm groups support this,” she said.
The food stamp program was added years ago as a political move to help the more rural areas of the country who wanted the provisions of the farm bill that aided their efforts. Adding food stamps to the provision made the bill more attractive to urban leaders.
While the one-year extension ended in September, the real cuts would begin taking place in January, and one of the major messages Klobuchar and other Congressional leaders are sharing is if a compromise is not reached by the end of the year the farm bill would default to 1949 levels. Those levels would dramatically increase food costs nationwide.
Klobuchar said the tragedy in South Dakota, when livestock producers saw thousands of cattle killed in a snowstorm, could have been addressed if there was a farm bill in place. However, due to the fact no agreement has been made nothing can be done to help them now.
Page 2 of 2 - “We need to find common ground and get the farm bill done and done fast,” said Klobuchar.