Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., column: America needs a cost-effective farm bill
By John Hoeven WASHINGTON -- America's security and prosperity depend on the productivity of American farmers and ranchers, which is why I am urging strong support for the bipartisan, cost-effective farm bill that we have developed in the U.S. Se...
By John Hoeven
WASHINGTON -- America's security and prosperity depend on the productivity of American farmers and ranchers, which is why I am urging strong support for the bipartisan, cost-effective farm bill that we have developed in the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee.
The Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act now making its way through Congress is aptly named, because it is about food, fiber and fuel, but it is also about jobs, the health of our economy and the security of our nation.
First of all, farmers and ranchers throughout our country provide the highest quality, lowest-cost food supply not only in the world, but in the history of the world. That makes the health of America's farm economy vitally important to every American anywhere in our country.
Our bill will let producers continue that remarkable record by making sure they have an enhanced, market-based crop insurance program.
But at the same time, our legislation will streamline farm programs to make them more cost-effective and efficient and provide more than $23 billion in deficit reduction. It not only is cost-effective but also provides real savings to help reduce the deficit and debt.
Of the $23 billion it saves, $15 billion comes from farm programs and $6 billion from conservation programs. That represents a 10 percent reduction in the ag budget. Producers have recognized the need for fiscal responsibility and worked with us throughout the process to put together good, strong farm legislation that spends fewer dollars.
America's farm economy is also an economic engine, supporting millions of jobs and generating billions of dollars in income. U.S. farmers and ranchers employ more than 16 million Americans, either directly or indirectly, in producing and processing food, fiber or fuel.
Total cash receipts for producers in 2011 are expected to be a record $341 billion. In North Dakota, agricultural activities account for a quarter of the state's economy and nearly 25 percent of all jobs.
Agriculture, moreover, has a positive balance of trade. Last year, the U.S. hit an all-time ag-export record of more than $137 billion, besting the previous record in 2008 by $22 billion. That generated a record trade surplus in agriculture of nearly $43 billion.
Finally, and perhaps most important of all, good farm policy is vital from a national security perspective. Think about the implications if we had to depend on other countries for food, as we do for oil -- countries that don't share our vital interests or values.
Instead, with good farm policy, we know we can continue to rely on our hard-working farmers and ranchers right here at home.
To ensure the reliability of America's farm sector, our farm bill includes the kind of market-based risk-management tools that producers need.
One of the key things we tried to do is figure out how we could help farmers and ranchers insure their crops affordably at higher levels. We did that by enhancing crop insurance with the inclusion of a Supplemental Coverage Option. The option lets producers buy a supplemental policy beyond their individual farm-based policy.
In addition, the bill features a new Agriculture Risk Coverage program that addresses multiple-year losses. The program works with crop insurance by covering between 11 percent and 21 percent of a producer's historic five-year average revenues based on price and yield.
The new farm bill lets producers keep producing high-quality, low-cost agricultural products for America -- and at the same time, produce jobs, economic growth and security for our nation.
We worked together in a bipartisan way in committee to draft and approve good farm legislation, and now I encourage my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass the bill on the Senate floor. Every American depends on it, now and into the future.
Hoeven, a Republican, represents North Dakota in the U.S. Senate.