I am glad to share with you that this week the Senate came together, in bipartisan fashion, to approve the 2012 Farm Bill. The Farm Bill is one of the most important bills for North Carolina considered by Congress. The bill we passed this week will help to provide the certainty and predictability that our farmers need - and it does so in a fiscally responsible manner. In fact, many have called the Senate bill the most significant reform to American agriculture policy in decades.
Agriculture is North Carolina's largest industry, generating $74 billion in economic activity and employing nearly one-fifth of our state's workers. With the 2008 Farm Bill expiring later this year, it is now critical that the House of Representatives move swiftly to pass a new Farm Bill so that we can send this bill to the President and provide farmers the certainty they need to keep growing America's agricultural economy and driving our economic recovery.
The 2012 Farm Bill, which sets policy for the next five years, reduces the federal deficit by $23 billion. While I wholeheartedly support these efforts to reign in the deficit, I also fought hard to protect programs important to North Carolina.
The Senate Farm Bill ends an outdated direct payments to farmers system and replaces it with a multifaceted, insurance-based safety net. I'm very pleased that the Senate unanimously approved my amendment that will give farmers access to independent and clear information on these new programs. I am also encouraged by the spirit of bipartisanship that my Senate colleagues and I were able to bring to the debate. Working together, we produced a bill that will reform agriculture, consolidate programs and reduce the deficit.
As the Farm Bill now moves to the House, I will continue to fight to ensure the final bill gives North Carolina farmers the flexibility and certainty they need to make the best decisions for their families and their farms.