Klobuchar reminds Senate that "the stakes are high for Minnesota" with farm bill [VIDEO]
Fighting against jeopardizing "our entire country just to score political points in the House."
The farm bill expired at the end of September, but first the election and now the fiscal cliff have worked like a one-two punch to knock out chatter about it. Trust Amy Klobuchar, though, to try and get our attention back.
Yesterday she took to the Senate floor to remind people just how many billions of dollars and hundreds of programs are hanging in limbo. And how generally badass Minnesota farmers are.
- Farming for Federal Dollars: Meet the Minnesotans who receive subsidies for not growing anything
- Amy Klobuchar: "For the first time, there was a traffic jam in the Senate women's bathroom"
- Everything Must Go: How to step away from a hundred years of family farming--in four hours or less
"The stakes are high for Minnesota," Klobuchar told the Senate, before rattling off our accomplishments. "Agriculture is our state's leading export, accounting for $75 billion in economic activity every year and supporting more than 300,000 jobs. Minnesota is number three in the country for hogs and soybeans... number four in corn, number one for sugar beets, number one for sweet corn, and home to 21 ethanol plants that produce over a billion gallons of ethanol every single year."
Right now, that bounty is uncertain. The farm bill, which comes up for debate every five years, provides for hundreds of important but unsexy programs in the subsidies, crop insurance, and food stamps veins, among others.
According to Klobuchar, without knowing what's going to be covered by a new bill, farmers can't know what or how much to plant.
"When I travel across our state... this is the time when that planning goes on," Klobuchar said. "Farmers in rural communities are left guessing about what rules they will operate under as they plan next year's crop."
Klobuchar also reminded the Senate that this is everyone's problem. The country's farms produce a "$42 billion trade surplus," she said, that is "one of the jewels of our economy... actually making things, producing things and exporting to the world."
Though the farm bill is not yet on the table in fiscal cliff negotiations, some lawmakers are saying that it could play a role in decreasing the deficit.
The Senate passed a new farm bill in June, a $969 billion sucker that would save $23 billion over 10 years. The House has its own version with $35 billion in cuts, but squabbling has prevented it from reaching a vote.
Klobuchar was sure to get in a few jabs at those thumb-twiddlers. "We can't jeopardize the economic future of rural America, and really of our entire country, just to score political points in the House," she said.
"I'm opposed to playing red light green light with agricultural policy," Klobuchar continued. "You talk about moving backwards, that's what will happen if we don't get this farm bill done." (Literally: On January 1, "many farm programs will revert to 1949" standards, per a recent New York Times report).
In case her arguments weren't convincing enough, Klobuchar also name dropped. "When Bill Gates comes to talk about the farm bill, you know this is about more than just some farmers in Minnesota," she said. "It is about feeding the country. It is about feeding the world."
Here's all eight minutes of her speech.
On the other end of the Klobuchar news spectrum, take a moment to appreciate this gem from the archives: Justin Bieber says Amy Klobuchar should be 'locked up'
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss City Pages' biggest stories.