Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) yesterday signed on to a letter sponsored by Senators Max Baucus (D-MT) and John Hoeven (R-ND) to build a bipartisan coalition of 33 Senators united around passing the farm bill by year’s end.  In a letter to leadership, the Senators call for any end of year package Congress considers to include the full, five year farm bill passed by the Senate in June.

“Enacting a new farm bill is a critically important responsibility of this Congress, and since the full House has not acted we need to press ahead with the strong bipartisan legislation that we adopted in the Senate last summer,” Harkin said. “The farm bill encompasses a wide range of critical food, agriculture, conservation, rural development, and energy initiatives important to families, farms, and businesses in Iowa and the entire nation.”

“American farmers and ranchers put affordable food on our tables, bring in dollars from around the globe with their world-class products, and continue in our strong agricultural tradition,” wrote the lawmakers. “These are some of the hardest workers in the United States, and it is our turn to show them Washington is fighting for rural America.”

The Senate passed a bipartisan farm bill in June by a margin of 64 to 35.  It cuts spending by $23 billion and is expected to support 16 million jobs nationwide through programs that support farmers and ranchers, boost trade, and invest in research.

Complete text of the letter follows:


December 13, 2012

The Honorable Harry Reid
Senate Majority Leader
S-221, The Capitol
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Mitch McConnell
Senate Minority Leader
S-230, The Capitol
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Majority Leader Reid and Minority Leader McConnell:

Last June, the Senate came together and passed a strong bipartisan farm bill that would help producers manage risk, create jobs and reduce the deficit and debt.  It was not an easy task, but members from both sides of the aisle came together and passed farm policies that cut the deficit by over $23 billion while making smart, common-sense reforms that ensure the farm safety net works for both the American taxpayer and the American agricultural producer.

Our country’s farmers and ranchers produce the highest quality, lowest cost food supply in the world, and they need strong farm policies to ensure they can continue providing our nation with a safe and reliable food source.  Thankfully, the 2008 farm bill coverage for most programs extends throughout the 2012 crop year.  But as the 2012 harvest rolls to an end, farmers and ranchers are already working with their bankers to plan for the 2013 crop.  In many parts of the United States, they have already seeded their 2013 winter wheat.

Agriculture supports over 16 million jobs in our country and is the heart of many rural economies across the United States.  In order for our farmers and ranchers to plan for their future, it is imperative that we provide them the certainty of a full five-year farm bill.  While our farmers produce a domestic supply of food, fiber and fuel, American agricultural products also contribute to a trade surplus.  Just this year, the U.S Department of Agriculture reported that agriculture exports for fiscal year 2013 are projected to reach a record of $143 billion in 2013, resulting in an agricultural trade surplus of over $26 billion.

While the increase in agriculture exports is welcomed news, our producers are still struggling from the extreme drought, spring deep freeze, and other weather disasters across the country this past season.  To date, 2,196 counties are currently under primary USDA drought disaster designations.  As the historic drought conditions persist, farmers could suffer from the impacts of the drought in the 2013 crop year as well.  Congress has serious challenges to meet before the end of the year; including the farm bill which can help us cut the debt and create jobs.

With each passing day, the difficulty of enacting a farm bill before the end of this Congress grows.   Congress must do the responsible thing and pass a full, five year reform farm bill.  Accordingly, we urge you to consider folding in the Senate’s strong bipartisan bill in any end-of-year package.

American farmers and ranchers put affordable food on our tables, bring in dollars from around the globe with their world-class products, and continue in our strong agricultural tradition.  These are some of the hardest workers in the United States, and it is our turn to show them Washington is fighting for rural America.

signatures:

Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Pat Leahy(D-Vt.), Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), John Kerry (D-Mass), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), Herb Kohl (D.-WI) , Joe Lieberman (ID-CT), Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Ben Nelson (D-Fla), John Thune (R-SD), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Sherrod Brown (D-Oh.), Robert Casey Jr. (D-Penn), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Mark Udall (D-Col.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Michael Bennet (D-Col.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Christopher Coons (D-Del.), Dan Coats (R-Ind.), and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.).