Every five years, Congress produces a Farm Bill. This legislation offers many programs that provide American agriculture with support and market opportunities. This spring, the Senate is working on yet another Farm Bill that will affect operations across the nation, including those in Wisconsin.
Worldwide, Wisconsin is known as an agricultural leader. Agriculture provides more than 350,000 jobs and generates roughly $60 billion worth of economic activity in our state. Our dairy producers are known far and wide for their quality operations which produce wholesome milk and award-winning cheese, while our corn growers help not only to feed the world but to power it with ethanol. Specialty crops such as potatoes, cranberries and apples play a crucial role in providing nutritious options as a part of school breakfast and lunch programs, which give our children a better chance to succeed in school and life. Furthermore, many of these same farmers have implemented various land conservation and sustainability practices that will allow the land to remain healthy and viable for future generations of Wisconsin farmers.
Now all this is not to say that agriculture is without its challenges. Despite record high crop prices and new export markets opening around the world, difficulties remain. As farmers do annually for their own operations, the federal government is responsible for reducing our budget deficit, eliminating wasteful spending, and maximizing our investments. This requires Congress to closely examine the entire federal budget to determine which spending practices are the most effective and essential. However, as farmers understand, when you are faced with difficult decisions there is also an opportunity to refocus on what's most important. One of the most important goals of this Farm Bill is to create a quality safety net for both dairy and crop producers. Because farming is capital intensive and its product a necessity worldwide, we first and foremost must provide producers with an adequate safety net that accurately responds to their needs and market signals. While a safety net is the lynchpin of this Farm Bill, we must also continue to invest in nutrition assistance, research, conservation, and alternative energy. Delivering on these other items will help to extend the positive impact of an adequate safety net.
Over my years in the Senate, I have had the privilege of meeting with farmers, producers, and processors of all different kinds. One thing that I found to be universal is their ability to invest in the future during the good times, and to buckle down and do what they do best during the hard times. As we begin the 2012 Farm Bill, Congress finds itself at a crossroads of good times and bad. There are challenges, yes, but also extraordinary opportunities to continue to build on our state's proud agricultural tradition with an eye towards the future. I look forward to this challenge.
This month, my regional representatives will be holding office hours throughout Wisconsin at Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices and other community locations. I invite you to stop by when they are in your area to share your thoughts about the Farm Bill. If you can't make it to one of these office hours, but still have suggestions or comments, please call my office at 1-800-247-5645 or visit my website at kohl.senate.gov. As Congress debates these policies, I will rely, as I always have, on feedback from people across our state. I hope you will attend one of these sessions:
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