U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) said today that U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told him he supports Franken's push to get a comprehensive Farm Bill enacted before the current bill expires at the end of the year.
Sen. Franken, in a phone call with Vilsack this week, pressed the Secretary to continue to work with key Congressional leaders to have a five-year Farm Bill included in the current "fiscal cliff" budget negotiations so that farmers and ranchers in Minnesota and across the country have the critical certainty they need to plan for the future.
"Minnesota's agriculture industry supports one in five jobs in our state, which is why I'm doing everything I can to get a five-year Farm Bill passed," said Sen. Franken. "I worked with my colleagues in the Senate to pass a bipartisan, five-year Farm Bill that would give our farmers the stability they need to plan for next year, but Republican leaders in the House continue to block a House vote on this important measure. I called USDA Secretary Vilsack and urged him to work with President Obama to press House Republicans to get to work on this Farm Bill before it's too late."
Earlier this year, the Senate passed a comprehensive Farm Bill that cuts billions of dollars in spending and includes a number of provisions written by Sen. Franken. The House of Representatives has not yet taken up the Senate's Farm Bill, and farmers across the country have said that, if Congress fails to pass a new bill, it will have dire implications for the nation's agriculture economy.
Last week Sen. Franken sent a letter to Senate leadership urging them to include the Farm Bill in any fiscal package they consider. Earlier this year, Sen. Franken and his staff held a series of Farm Bill outreach meetings with farmers all over the state to learn what Minnesota's agriculture community needed from the 2012 Farm Bill. The Farm Bill passed by the Senate includes a provision introduced by Sen. Franken that reauthorizes the REAP program, which helps agriculture producers and businesses in rural areas invest in energy efficiency and renewable energy projects so they can cut energy bills and earn additional income by selling the energy they produce.