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Published July 03, 2012, 10:14 AM

Hoeven: Farm bill saves $23 billion over 10 years

Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., met Monday with 25 area farmers and representatives from growers’ groups and agricultural interests in Grand Forks to discuss the 2012 Farm Bill, which passed the U.S. Senate less than two weeks ago.

By: Chris Bieri, Grand Forks Herald

Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., met Monday with 25 area farmers and representatives from growers’ groups and agricultural interests in Grand Forks to discuss the 2012 Farm Bill, which passed the U.S. Senate less than two weeks ago.

The roundtable discussion, which included Rep. Rick Berg, R-N.D., focused on the bill’s enhanced crop insurance and let the group give the feedback on the bill, which now lies in the hands of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Hoeven touted the U.S. food supply as the highest quality and lowest cost in the world and said the bill will save $23 billion over 10 years.

“Agriculture is doing its part,” he said. “This is a 10-percent reduction in the ag budget. You show me someone else in the federal budget doing that. If they do, we’ll have the deficit taken care of before too long.”

The senate bill, which passed 64-35, will be funded over five years at a cost of just less than $500 billion.

Berg said the house could have a version of the bill out of committee by early next week.

Emphasis on crop insurance

Many in the group emphasized crop insurance, and the importance of it not being tied to conservation programs.

“The heart and soul of this thing is crop insurance,” Hoeven said.

A number of the farmers and farm lenders emphasized the need for strong crop insurance programs, especially for young farmers who are either just getting started or taking over a family farm.

Hoeven said the bill provides a supplemental coverage option that goes beyond individual crop insurance.

Crop insurance makes up $95 billion of the bill, and another $101 billion is tagged for other farm programs. About 80 percent of the bill, or $768 billion, goes toward nutrition, which includes food stamps and the school lunch program.

Sugar program, research

The sugar program, billed as no-cost program, saw some pushback during the initial stages of legislation development, but was left intact in the senate version.

Hoeven said keeping the sugar program in place was important, and added that the U.S. is now the largest importer of sugar in the world.

“We also pointed out that the price of sugar in the U.S. is 14 percent below the world sugar price,” he said.

Of the $23 billion saved on the bill, $15 billion comes in reductions to farm programs and $6 billion from conservation programs.

But Hoeven said keeping funding for research is important, something echoed by other members of the round table.

“I’m a strong proponent of ag research,” Hoeven said.

At the meeting, Hoeven also announced that $5.6 million of the $7 million from the Water Bank Program is available for North Dakota farmers.

The program, funded by the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Services, is used to pay farmers and landowners whose flooded land is used for short-term conservation leases. The issue is especially important to farmers in the Devils Lake Basin. There are currently 83 long-term agreements in place with landowners with 75 percent coming from that area.

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