Senator Kent Conrad met today with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack for an update on Farm Bill negotiations as farm country leaders from both sides of the political aisle work to pass a new five year farm bill before the end of the year.
"Time is not on our side right now. The longer it takes to secure a deal, the worse that deal is likely to be for North Dakota's family farmers and ranchers," Senator Conrad said. "The Senate worked diligently to craft a sound, bipartisan bill that achieved $23 billion in savings while still making key investments in rural America. The House must follow suit, and do so soon."
Both Senator Conrad and Secretary Vilsack have been vocal about the importance of completing a bill this calendar year, saying that a mere extension of the current bill could raise significant policy and budget challenges in 2013.
Senator Conrad noted that the Farm Bill is critical to allowing the nation's agriculture producers to compete on a more even playing field, noting that producers in the European Union get four times as much support, while Brazil, Argentina, China, and others are gaining unfair market advantages through hidden subsidies such as currency manipulation and market access restrictions.
Senator Conrad, working with Senators John Hoeven (R-ND) and Max Baucus (D-MT), fought to include an amendment in the Senate bill that improves the farm safety net by ensuring that disaster assistance more accurately reflects the impact of a disaster on individual farms.
The Senator also worked with Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) during Agriculture Committee deliberations of the Farm Bill to protect funding for key rural energy programs. The energy title funding was maintained in the final bill.
A senior member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Senator Conrad is a co-author of the 2002 and 2008 Farm Bills. Both bills are largely acknowledged as the two best Farm Bills in history for North Dakota.