Washington, D.C.—Today, Senator Joe Donnelly, a member of the Senate Ag Committee, applauded the committee passage of a five-year farm bill with bipartisan support. The Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2013 passed 15 to 5 and would reduce the deficit by $23 billion while protecting the estimated 16 million ag-related jobs across the country.
“I am pleased that we have approved a common sense, five-year farm bill to give the Hoosier ag and rural communities the certainty they deserve,” said Donnelly. “This bipartisan bill would not only protect the millions of ag jobs around the country; it makes the tough decisions necessary to cut spending, increase accountability, and eliminate duplicative or unnecessary programs to continue our efforts to get our fiscal house in order.
“While no bill is perfect, there are a few areas of this bill I worked to improve based on feedback from Hoosiers. First, I worked to maintain full planting flexibility for Hoosier farmers wanting to grow fruits and vegetables on their farms.
“Second, as many of Indiana’s farmers continue to contribute to our domestic energy security, I introduced an amendment to give the next generation of bioenergy crops access to base levels of risk management so that a logical safety net will be in place for producers.
“Further, I supported an amendment to give USDA more authority in determining conservation program technical assistance funding levels with input from the field and the stakeholder community. We need robust technical assistance to give producers the assurances they need to know they are implementing practices correctly, and these decisions should be more reflective of needs on the ground.
“Now, I urge prompt passage of this bill by the full Senate and for our colleagues in the House to follow suit. Indiana farmers deserve more than the partisan gridlock that prevented a five-year farm bill from passing last year.”
Donnelly introduced an amendment with Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) to address the increasing use of crops for biofuels. This bipartisan amendment would amend the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program to offer coverage for crops producing feedstock for energy purposes. Further, the amendment would direct USDA to research and develop risk management tools promising new sorghum crops. Read his full amendment here.
Senator Donnelly’s amendment is supported by the Advanced Biofuels Association, Agriculture Energy Coalition, Advanced Ethanol Council, BIO, Growth Energy, National Sorghum Producers, and the Renewable Fuels Association. Read their letter of support here.
Donnelly cosponsored an amendment introduced by Senator Heidi Heitkamp that would put the USDA in charge of conservation program technical assistance funding levels, taking the Office of Management and Budget out of the process. This gives USDA the authority to make sure the technical assistance reflects the needs of producers in the field and the stakeholder community while allowing conservation practices to be adopted on a broader scale.
Gene Schmidt, in leadership for the National Association of Conservation Districts and producer from northern Indiana said of the conservation amendment, “We need accountability and efficiency for the dollars that are available, and we need enough technical assistance dollars to make that happen. We’ve been so challenged in the past to have enough technical assistance dollars to properly assist implementation of programs in the field. So many times producers want to do the right thing, but often they want assurance that they are implementing the practice properly. I thank Senator Donnelly for being willing to sponsor this amendment because a locally led process is the way to do it. Those on the local level know how to do it properly and least expensively.”
The Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2013 now goes to the full Senate for its consideration.