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A Step Forward for the Farm Bill


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The Senate faces an important task in the weeks ahead with the continued consideration of the farm bill. I've noted many times over the past month that this legislation is a positive step forward -- one that saves money while improving agriculture policy for our farmers, ranchers, and rural communities. An agreement has been eventually reached to vote on as many as 73 of the almost 300 proposed amendments, and I remain optimistic about the farm bill.

The amendments I've proposed would strengthen the bill considerably. One would improve the food stamp program by closing a funding loophole, saving $2 billion in excess spending without cutting food benefits. Another prevents the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating everyday farm dust. Unfortunately these are not among the 73 amendments currently scheduled for a vote.

My amendment which will receive a vote would prohibit EPA from aerial surveillance of agricultural operations. This amendment became necessary when EPA, after multiple requests for a transparent explanation, danced around the issue and declined to explain the size and scope of the program. It's a matter of trust: Americans must trust their government, and EPA hasn't proven itself trustworthy.

Improvement through the amendment process has long been a standard of federal policymaking, dating back to the founding of our country. This is the same method I used last year to repeal the 1099 tax reporting mandate in the health care law -- and though it ultimately received overwhelming bipartisan support, it took nearly a half dozen separate votes in the Senate to make it a reality. The amendment process ensures representation by all states and the minority party in the Senate, and leads to better policy overall, and I'm pleased many of the proposed amendments will now be considered.

For now, the farm bill will move forward and I applaud both Senate leaders -- Sens. McConnell and Reid -- for reaching an agreement which allows the Senate to function as it should. I remain hopeful that this process will strengthen the bill and serve as an example of how important the amendment process is in crafting federal policy. Our farmers and ranchers are counting on this legislation, and I will continue to represent them and push for the farm bill in the Senate.

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