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Senate passes farm bill; House to take up this week

By Janet Kubat Willette

Date Modified: 06/24/2013 1:03 PM

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WASHINGTON — The Senate on June 10 approved the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2013 by a vote of 66-27.

The House is scheduled to take up the bill on June 17.

"This process has gone on far too long, but with the strong bipartisan support in the Senate, I'm optimistic the House will be able to consider our farm bill (this) week," said Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., ranking member on the House Agriculture Committee. "It's going to be difficult, but if everything stays on track, I believe it's possible to get a bill to the president before the August recess, finally providing some certainty for our farmers, ranchers and consumers."

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said the vote shows bipartisan support for the bill and sentiment to move the bill forward. The bill closely resembles the bill that passed the Senate last June, only to falter because the House never brought up its version.

The 2013 bill includes the new dairy program crafted by Peterson, keeps the sugar program intact and moves from direct payments to crop insurance while saving $24 billion over 10 years, Klobuchar said.

"I'm very proud of the young farmers and ranchers part of the bill," she said. "I got some extra funding in there for conservation efforts (and) ag research, both uniquely important to Minnesota."

A lot of agricultural research is done in Minnesota and the state's landowners are among the leading users of conservation programs, the senator said in a telephone interview following passage of the farm bill.

But the farm bill funds more than farmers, Klobuchar said.

Funding in the bill provides for wastewater and water treatment, rural development and pollinator habitat.

"People always think about the farm bill, and they think of farmers understandably, but the majority of the bill is other things, conservation, the important school nutrition program ..." Klobuchar said.

Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., also praised the bill's passage.

""I'm proud to have helped author the energy section this year, which will produce jobs and growth in agriculture energy — advanced biofuels, wind, biomass — the whole nine yards," Franken said in a press release. "That's good for Minnesota because we're leaders in those technologies, and it's good for the entire country because it will decrease our dependency on foreign oil."

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, called the bill the most significant reform of American agriculture policy in decades. The bill consolidates programs to end duplication and addresses fraud and misuse in nutrition programs. It also supports 16 million jobs, she said.

"I look forward to continuing to work in a collaborative and bipartisan way to see that this reform bill is signed into law," Stabenow said in a press release. "There can be no more kicking the can down the road — it's time for Congress to finish its work on the farm bill."