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Kevin Cramer: Perdue a true partner for North Dakota

This month, we warmly welcomed U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue to our great state. Although he has yet to complete a full year in office, he has already traveled to more than 30 states to meet the men and women on the front lines of agriculture.

In many of those states, there's no doubt he heard about the same challenges we face here in North Dakota, chief among them low commodity prices.

We all remember how quickly Secretary Perdue acted to provide drought disaster relief to our agriculture producers last summer. By opening Conservation Reserve Program acres to emergency haying and grazing, he provided a much-needed resource and more options to our producers. His receptive and professional staff demonstrated not only a deep understanding, but also a true concern about the issues we continue to face.

This past year, the North Dakota congressional delegation has spent considerable time on the

reauthorization of the Farm Bill. The current law expires later this year. As always, our goal is to ensure it includes predictable and lasting support.

During his visit, we focused on many of the programs most important to North Dakota such as crop insurance. Other issues discussed were a bit more nuanced but very important — such as data priority when calculating payments under the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) commodity support program.

Because of the prior Administration's decision to use National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) data for calculating payments, producers lost out on payments they otherwise should have received. Along with Collin Peterson and many other bipartisan midwestern colleagues in the House, I introduced a simple and targeted fix requiring the use of tried and true existing USDA Risk Management Agency data instead of NASS.

Another challenge in the Farm Bill is ensuring the Livestock Forage Program (LFP) protects those with significant risk in livestock operations. It provides compensation to eligible livestock producers who suffered grazing losses due to drought. While this program was very helpful, improvements must be made. Several of our contract growers are experiencing problems for reasons outside the merits dictated by Congress. However, working with both Secretary Perdue's and House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway's staff, I am confident changes will be in place to address the needs of North Dakotans.

Speaking of forage, the USDA Risk Management Agency (RMA) offers the Pasture Rangeland Forage program to further help livestock producers manage risk. Again, the program could use some fine-tuning. Secretary Perdue's RMA staff met with State Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring and me last summer to discuss a lack of payments due to inadequate weather data. In addition, I am working with Chairman Conaway to help resolve this in the Farm Bill.

Since 1985, Swampbuster has been a thorn in our producers' sides. Although hypothetically allowing an appeals process, many of our farmers and ranchers have been subjected to an arduous method that is anything but fair. That's why Kristi Noem, Collin Peterson, and I have once again introduced the Wetland Determinations Efficiency and Transparency Act.

Implementing the common-sense solutions in our legislation will go a long way toward leveling the playing field for our farmers and ranchers.

The year ahead will be challenging, with low commodity prices and the continuing drought certain to test us all. I appreciate Secretary Perdue being a true partner with North Dakota producers and hearing about the challenges they are facing. As with the Secretary, my door is always open. Let's discuss the issues and solutions our producers need so we can continue to feed a hungry world.

Kevin Cramer, a Republican, represents North Dakota in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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