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Senator Amy Klobuchar

Working for the People of Minnesota

Agriculture &
Rural Communities

Minnesota’s 80,000 farms represent a proud part of our state’s heritage and history. We are the nation’s fifth largest agricultural producing state, and our farmers contribute more than $10 billion to Minnesota’s economy each year. I know that Minnesota’s prosperity depends on protecting and strengthening our farms and rural communities throughout the state. That’s why I sought a seat on the Senate Agriculture Committee when you sent me to Washington.

On June 18, 2008, Congress passed a new Farm Bill, and I am proud to say that the priorities of Minnesota’s farmers and rural communities are well-represented in this legislation, which modernizes the federal farm program while strengthening the safety net our farmers deserve.

Agriculture is cyclical in nature. Farmers make large capital investments in their crops, livestock, buildings and equipment. They sometimes face heavy losses due to circumstances beyond their control. Northwest Minnesota was hit with storms and flooding in 2005, and much of the state was affected by drought in 2006, costing farmers $700 million in crop losses over two years. The 2008 Farm Bill provides a strong, fair safety net for farmers to help them survive disasters and times of low prices.

In addition, I believe that farm-based fuels are key to this nation’s future energy security. In 2006, ethanol offset the need for 170 million barrels of imported oil, and kept $11 billion in rural America. Our farms can meet a growing portion of our nation’s energy needs — from traditional biofuels like ethanol and biodiesel; from a new generation of cellulosic ethanol made from prairie grass; from wind energy; and even from electricity made from livestock waste. I believe the next Farm Bill should move us in that direction.

As Minnesota’s U.S. Senator, I’ve been fighting to keep our farms and rural communities strong and to keep our state a leader in developing homegrown energy. I have fought for:

  • A strong and fair safety net for American farmers. Farmers and farm communities need a fair safety net when prices fall. I fought successfully on the Senate Agriculture Committee to extend the commodity programs in the 2008 farm bill, and to rebalance these programs to be more equitable to northern crops such as wheat, barley and canola. Because the last six years have been particularly challenging for dairy farmers, I also fought successfully to extend the Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) program and raise the payment rate to a level that is more fair to dairy producers. And because Minnesota is the nation's number one producer of sugar beets, I also fought to ensure that the Farm Bill extended the federal sugar program - which supports prices at no cost to taxpayers - with additional safeguards against excess imports of subsidized foreign sugar.
  • Development of homegrown, farm-based energy. Renewable energy has been nothing short of a revolution in Minnesota. We have 16 ethanol plants and five biodiesel plants up and running, and five more ethanol plants under construction. By the end of 2008, Minnesota will be producing one billion gallons of ethanol and 67 million gallons of biodiesel each year. That will generate $5 billion for the state’s economy and support 18,000 jobs. To keep this momentum going forward, I have:
    • Pushed to make ethanol and biodiesel available to more drivers. I cosponsored the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, enacted in December of 2007, which includes $200 million annually to install ethanol and biodiesel pumps in gas stations across the country. In addition, my Right to Retail Renewable Fuels amendment will put a stop to oil company tactics that are used to block the sale of renewable fuels at their franchise gas stations.
    • Worked to ensure Minnesota’s leadership in the next generation of biofuels. I was proud to take the lead on efforts in the Senate Agriculture Committee to advance the nation to the next generation of biofuels - cellulosic ethanol made from dedicated energy crops like prairie grass and alfalfa, and from agricultural residues and wood chips. Working with Senators Tom Harkin of Iowa and Kent Conrad of North Dakota, I introduced the Farm-to-Fuel Investment Act, which offers incentives to farmers to grow dedicated energy crops on marginal farmland. This initiative was eventually included in the Energy Title of the 2008 Farm Bill.
  • Permanent disaster assistance for farmers. Minnesota farmers lost nearly $700 million in crop value to disasters in 2005 and 2006. I worked to secure the first-ever permanent program of disaster assistance in the 2008 Farm Bill. A permanent program will mean that it won't take an act of Congress for farmers to get relief each time disaster strikes - help will be there when farmers need it.
  • Ensuring that the nutrition needs of our most vulnerable citizens are met. Nearly three-fourths of the resources in the 2008 Farm Bill will go to nutrition programs. The bill will provide a stronger safety net for hungry Americans through the Food Stamp program, the Emergency Food Assistance program, and the Commodity Supplemental Food program. I worked to make long-overdue improvements to the Food Stamp program, including raising the minimum benefit and indexing benefits to inflation, so they will keep pace with rising food costs. We also provided $1.25 billion for the USDA to purchase food for food banks under the Emergency Food Assistance Program.
  • Conserving our natural resources. The new Farm Bill will shift the focus of the Conservation Title away from land retirement programs to so-called "working lands" programs, with $4.4 billion in new funds for the Conservation Stewardship Program and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program. The new funds will allow CSP - a program which rewards farmers for excellence in stewardship on working farmland -- to add 13 million new acres each year.

But this is just a down payment on the work that will strengthen our rural communities, bring reform to the farm program and move our country forward to the next generation of homegrown energy. These are my priorities going forward for agriculture and the rural economy:

  • Comprehensive incentives for homegrown energy. Renewable energy sources such as wind power and biomass can reduce our dependence on foreign oil while bringing jobs and paychecks to our rural communities. In the spring of 2008 I introduced the American Renewable Energy Act, which extends and expands federal incentives for private sector investment in homegrown energy sources such as wind power and solar energy. It’s important for investors to have a stable, reliable set of economic guidelines, and I’ll keep fighting to put the right incentives in place.
  • Additional reform of federal farm payments. The 2008 Farm Bill contains important reforms to the farm payment system, including a new income cap on eligibility for commodity payments. But we need to make these reforms go further, and I will continue working for additional legislation to make sure that federal support goes to our hard-working farmers and not to urban millionaires.

Senator Klobuchar’s Offices

302 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Main Line: 202-224-3244
Main Fax: 202-228-2186
Toll Free: 1-888-224-9043

1200 Washington Avenue South, Suite 250
Minneapolis, MN 55415
Main Line: 612-727-5220
Main Fax: 612-727-5223
Toll Free: 1-888-224-9043

1134 7th Street NW
Rochester, MN 55901
Main Line: 507-288-5321
Fax: 507-288-2922

121 4th Street South
Moorhead, MN 56560
Main Line: 218-287-2219
Fax: 218-287-2930

Olcott Plaza, Suite 105
820 9th Street North
Virginia, MN 55792
Main Line: 218-741-9690
Fax: 218-741-3692