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Senators brag on the provisions included in its farm bill

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., says the kind of bipartisan, across-the-board support the U.S. Senate's version of the farm bill received doesn't happen often.

"That doesn't happen for anything but basketball resolutions," she says. "The vote ... shows the rest of the world that America has the backs of our rural communities."

The Senate and House now both have passed their own farm bills, so the two chambers will iron out their differences in conference committee. Klobuchar says there are many similarities between the two bills, but she finds the Senate version, which passed on an 86-11 vote on June 28, to be stronger.

Amy KlobucharThe Senate bill, she explains, includes $1 billion in savings from eliminating duplicative programs, thus avoiding what she calls "draconian cuts" to nutrition programs made in the House bill. Input from both parties played a big part, she says.

Klobuchar says the bill "keeps a strong, consistent farm, agriculture, rural community policy going forward," which is important in a time of poor prices, weather disturbances and a difficult trade atmosphere.

"The last thing you want to do is have either no policies come out of Washington to respond to it or, worse than that, inconsistency," she says.

Klobuchar says regional highlights of the bill include an improved Margin Protection Program for dairy producers, along with an amendment to the bill that would help dairy farmers with premiums from the past few years in the program, and funding for a vaccine bank.

Here are some other less-talked-about items in the Senate farm bill, according to other Senate Ag Committee members from around the region:

• Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., touts the inclusion of numerous programs to help Native American farmers and ranchers and Indian Country as a whole: "This legislation enhances tribal self-governance for food and agriculture programs, expands grant and research opportunities for tribal colleges and universities and strengthens the partnership between USDA and Indian tribes. These improvements will provide important resources to Indian Country's producers, who help drive many rural tribal economies."

• Sen.Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., lauds the FARMERS FIRST Act, included in the farm bill, which provides support for state departments of agriculture, state extension services, and nonprofits to establish helplines, provide suicide prevention training for farm advocates, create support groups, and reestablish the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network.

• Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., announces the Soil Health and Income Protection Program was included in the farm bill. SHIPP is a new voluntary income protection program that would provide participating farmers with a short-term acreage conserving use program, which unlike the Conservation Reserve Program, would require a commitment of only three to five years.

• Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., cheers the inclusion of the Hemp Farming Act, which would legalize hemp, which can be used in a wide-range of consumer goods, food and other products, as an agricultural commodity. The act would remove hemp from the list of controlled substances.

• Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., hails a provision that would create a rural health liaison position at the U.S. Department of Agriculture to work with other federal health agencies to address health care needs specific to rural communities.