Klobuchar in area to tout farm bill

Published 9:39 am Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Jim Krueger, president and CEO of Freeborn-Mower Cooperative Services, describes to U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar some of the U.S. Department of Agriculture loan programs the cooperative has done in partnership with USDA to assist businesses. Klobuchar visited the cooperative Tuesday morning. -- Tim Engstrom/Albert Lea Tribune

ALBERT LEA — There is a good likelihood that Congress will pass a farm bill in coming months, said U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar on Tuesday during a stop in Albert Lea.

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar shakes hands Tuesday with Dan Dorman, executive director of the Albert Lea Economic Development Agency and former District 27A state representative.

At Freeborn-Mower Cooperative Services, the senior senator from Minnesota heard from local economic development officials about local issues that need federal attention.

Of course, the farm bill was up there.

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“Now, it’s going to be a big fight,” she said.

Klobuchar said the new Senate has many of the same faces and likely can pass the same measure it did with bipartisan support last summer. Sixty-eight out of 100 senators voted in favor. She said the measure saves $23 billion over 10 years and preserves rural development initiatives, strengthens crop insurance and maintains dairy programs.

However, getting it through the House of Representatives will be tricky. She said she believes it will pass.

“Our advantage is cost-reduction,” she said.

The farm bill isn’t just about farms. It’s about America’s rural economy. Congress generally passes a new one every five years, and the legislation regulates areas ranging from school nutrition to forestry and from agriculture to wildlife habitat. The Senate in June passed a farm bill, but in the House the measure couldn’t get to the floor for a vote. Instead, Congress on Jan. 1 extended the existing farm legislation for nine months, kicking the can down the road. While the extension maintains crop subsidies and dairy regulations, it leaves some programs, such as energy titles, with limited or no means. Most importantly, it leaves farmers, bank loan officers and anyone in agribusiness uncertain about what’s coming for the 2013 growing season.

After the House’s failure to pass the farm bill, some pundits stated rural American was losing clout, saying lobbyists couldn’t get the issue to the forefront.

Klobuchar disagreed. She said the measure wouldn’t have passed with more than two-thirds of support in the U.S. Senate if rural America lacked clout. She noted the farm bill passed by the Senate has support from the American Farm Bureau and the National Farmers Union.