Today, in an effort to help beginning farmers get started in Minnesota and help Minnesota's farms and rural communities save money and upgrade their infrastructure, U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) introduced an amendment to the Farm bill currently being debated on the Senate floor that would provide funding for a variety of programs that benefit Minnesota's agriculture community.
"A big part of Minnesota's economy depends on farmers and other rural producers, so it's important that we invest in the future of agriculture in this state," said Sen. Franken. "This legislation would improve the Farm Bill by giving beginning farmers the resources they need to get off the ground, breathing new life into Minnesota's agriculture community. It would also help Minnesota's farmers and rural entrepreneurs cut costs and expand their operations."
Sen. Franken, along with his colleagues Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Tim Johnson (D-S. Dak.), John Kerry (D-Mass.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), introduced an amendment to the 2012 Farm Bill that would create or expand funding for a number of important programs, including:
* The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, which funds education, extension, outreach, and technical assistance initiatives directed at helping beginning farmers and ranchers of all types.
* Water/Wastewater Backlog Programs, which provide technical and financial assistance for water and wastewater infrastructure upgrades in small towns and communities in rural areas.
* The Rural Energy Savings Program, which enables USDA's Rural Utilities Service (RUS) to work with existing borrowers to provide loans to qualified consumers to implement durable, cost-effective energy efficiency measures.
In April, Sen. Franken pressed the Senate Agriculture Committee to fund the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program in its draft of the Farm Bill. The bill passed by the committee included $50 million in funding for the program. Today's amendment would increase that number to $100 million over the next five years. Earlier this year, Sen. Franken introduced legislation that would reauthorize and improve the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), which helps agriculture producers and businesses in rural areas invest in energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. These projects would help them cut energy bills and earn additional income by selling the energy they produce.