Farm Bill Must Protect ND Farmers and Ranchers

Senator’s Top Priority is a Strong 2018 Farm Bill that Supports New & Beginning Farmers, Strong Crop Insurance Programs, and Better Trade Opportunities

U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp underscored the need for a strong 2018 Farm Bill that protects North Dakota farmers and ranchers in tough times, supports new and beginning farmers, and provides opportunities for them to bring their products to market.

During a hearing in the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Heitkamp questioned key leaders – that included National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson – on how to build credit opportunities for farmers and ranchers, protect and strengthen crop insurance for farmers and ranchers facing tough times like North Dakota’s drought, bolster agriculture research that helps farmers and ranchers do their jobs, and open up new markets for North Dakota producers to trade their products and thrive. Heitkamp – who helped write, negotiate, and pass the 2014 Farm Bill – has been fighting against severe cuts in the president’s budget to Farm Bill programs that are critical to North Dakota farmers and ranchers.

“Taking on the challenges North Dakota farmers and ranchers face now is critical to the success of American commodity markets, and rural economies in the future,” said Heitkamp. “This week, I spoke with some of our nation’s top leaders in agriculture – including North Dakota’s own Roger Johnson who now leads the National Farmers Union – about how to best spur our farm economy now and in the years ahead. We ought to be encouraging our next generation of farmers and ranchers by helping them access the credit they need to get started, and to look ahead to the tough times they might face by providing a strong crop insurance safety net. When our producers are able to compete in the global market, and agriculture research is supported with the funds needed to help our producers do their jobs more safely and effectively, we don’t just grow more food – we grow more jobs and healthy working families at home. I’ll keep working with our nation’s top leaders, and the North Dakota farmers and ranchers who know best, so we can create a strong 2018 Farm Bill that will support our current generation of producers, and many more to come.”

Since her leadership in passing a strong 2014 Farm Bill, Heitkamp has been working to implement and protect the Farm Bill for producers across North Dakota. In August 2016, Heitkamp began laying the groundwork for a robust 2018 Farm Bill with a two-day tour across North Dakota, meeting with farmers, ranchers, researchers, and other agriculture leaders in the field to get their feedback ahead of the upcoming Farm Bill negotiations.

On the heels of pledging to protect crop insurance from budget cuts in October 2015, Heitkamp supported a compromise fix that reversed severe cuts to the federal crop insurance program in the highway bill, which Congress passed in 2015. After urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the agency heeded her call last November, implementing a new rule that makes lesser cuts for North Dakota crops than original proposals. Heitkamp has also continued to fight to build resources to support new and beginning farmers that she helped secure in the 2014 Farm Bill through her work on the Senate Agriculture Committee.

Heitkamp has long worked to expand market access for North Dakota farmers and ranchers. Last year, Heitkamp called on the former U.S. Trade Representative to protect North Dakota grain growers from unfair treatment after a report she requested showed that Canada segregates North Dakota grain and offers unfair prices to U.S. producers at Canadian elevators. Heitkamp has also fought to guarantee North Dakota farmers have fair access to China, including through a World Trade Organization (WTO) compliance case in December 2016. In September 2016, she helped announce an earlier compliance case to hold China accountable for over-subsidizing its domestic crops.

As a leader in pushing to expand producers’ access to Cuba, Heitkamp last month urged the president not to leave American farmers and rural communities behind as his administration considers rolling back the United States’ diplomatic opening with Cuba. Also last month, Heitkamp spoke with U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue to urge him to hold Mexico accountable if it continues dumping sugar into U.S. markets. The initial deal the administration announced included loopholes Mexico could have exploited. Perdue assured Heitkamp he would hold Mexico accountable – and later that month the administration tightened the agreement, as Heitkamp pushed for, to address those concerns.

At his confirmation hearing in March, Heitkamp pushed USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue to be a strong voice for agricultural trade in the administration and to stand up for other agricultural priorities. At the hearing, Perdue endorsed Heitkamp’s bipartisan bill to expand U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba by lifting private financing restrictions on exports—a bill Heitkamp pressed Perdue on when they met earlier this year.