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Smith: Senate Farm Bill Good for Farmers and Communities
Minnesota Ag Connection - 06/11/2018

U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.), a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said the bipartisan Farm Bill proposal the Committee will take up this week is important, not only for the Minnesota farmers, ranchers and rural communities, who will greatly benefit from the measure, but also for the state's economy as a whole. The legislation, which includes measures championed by Sen. Smith--including many aspects of her legislative roadmap for the energy section of the Farm Bill--will help spur economic development, job creation and trade.

Smith said the panel will begin work to finalize the proposal on June 13, when it takes up provisions that will strengthen the key elements of the farm safety net like crop insurance and other tools to safeguard farmers from unexpected losses. The Farm Bill will also protect important nutrition assistance programs that tens of thousands of Minnesota families rely upon, expand much-needed access to high-speed internet services in rural communities, bolster production and use of renewable energy, and provide resources to help younger and non-traditional farmers get started in the business.

"The Farm Bill touches the lives of virtually every American and is vital to our state's economy," said Smith. "This bill will provide important stability and predictability to Minnesota farmers, ranchers and rural communities into the future, and also sustain tens of thousands of Minnesota jobs. Just as important, it will strengthen food access for thousands of Minnesota families and school children who without it would go hungry. In addition, this bill will expand development of renewable energy, bolster rural economic development, and guide our state's important forestry industry. Finally, it will support conservation efforts, provide funding for ag research, and expand resources for beginning, veteran and organic farmers."

Smith fought for a spot on the Senate Ag Committee, and she formed a Farm Bill Working Group to hear from farmers, ranchers, and rural community leaders--as well as experts on nutrition, energy, and conservation--to make sure Minnesota priorities are included in the Farm Bill.

You can access full text of the bill here, which includes key efforts championed by Sen. Smith to:

- Deploy broadband to unserved rural and tribal communities through Sen. Smith's Community Connect Grant Program Act

- Implement many of Sen. Smith's requested energy program improvements from her energy title reauthorization bill

- Support the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network to help farmers and people working in ag access critical mental health services

- Maintain federal sugar program

- Protect Rural Energy for America (REAP) funding and add new technologies for REAP eligibility

- Help tribes get better access to conservation funds and other USDA programs

- Encourage innovative uses for wood, create jobs, and protect forestland from development through the Timber Innovation Act

- Create support for beginning farmer training programs and farmer outreach programs aimed at helping producers from diverse backgrounds, including veteran and immigrant farmers

- Bolster trade promotion activities

- Authorize the National Animal Disease Preparedness, Response, and Recovery Program and the National Animal and Veterinary Countermeasures Bank, which Sen. Smith has prioritized

"Today, the United States Senate Agriculture Committee released its version of the 2018 Farm Bill. In its consideration of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the bill is a marked improvement from the House legislation, and we thank Chairman Roberts and Ranking Member Stabenow for their bipartisan cooperation, noted Matt Knott, president of Feeding America..

"With regard to SNAP, the Senate measure is a stark improvement over the House Farm Bill (H.R. 2), which would dramatically limit the availability of the program and reduce the benefits provided. The Senate bill recognizes the SNAP program is already designed to encourage individuals to find work, and work more hours, and takes steps to address barriers to work that many face by strengthening and increasing partnerships in employment and training. The bill also makes targeted and reasonable improvements to SNAP program administration and in areas that will further strengthen the program," Knott said.

"At the same time, the measure falls short of adequately investing in The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), a critical source of food for millions of individuals and families across the country. We want to work with the Senate to strengthen these provisions going forward," Knott added.

"We all have a role to play in addressing hunger -- charity and government -- and SNAP provides critical assistance where we cannot. For every meal that Feeding America provides, SNAP provides 12. Feeding America's national network of member food banks simply cannot meet the need in communities without robust investments in SNAP, TEFAP and other nutrition assistance programs. As the Farm Bill moves forward, we encourage lawmakers to recognize the importance of passing legislation that both supports America's agricultural producers and strengthens key nutrition programs for seniors, veterans, children, and working families," Knott said.

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