Today I attended an important listening session sponsored by Senator Tina Smith on the 2018 Farm Bill.
Industrial hemp production, proposed copper nickel mining and family farming were among the issues brought to the table today at the Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College.
It’s no secret our family farms are struggling for their survival. Here in Carlton County, dairy farmers must rely on multiple income sources to hold onto farms that have been worked by their families for generations.
Did you know the bill has what is called a Margin Protection Program (MPP) for Dairy Farmers? It, and other programs like Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) provide farm payments when crop prices or revenues decline for major commodity crops. These programs can make the difference between selling off the herd or continuing a valued family tradition. I support any program that keeps food production as close as possible to consumers.
--One participant today urged the Senator’s staff to work on expanding industrial hemp production. I couldn’t agree more. We should be growing hemp, a plant used in thousands of products, here in the district.
--Bob, another attendee voiced concern that legislation clearing the way for copper nickel mining within the Lake Superior watershed would find its way into the farm bill. He cautioned that the proposed PolyMet project would mean the destruction of a thousand acres of wetlands, and the degradation of thousands more. I have never wavered in my opposition to the current PolyMet proposal. I too do not believe it is worth the risk to our water, which is our most important national strategic reserve.
--The farm bill is a big one, with crucial funding for our rural communities. It includes grants and loans for rural housing, broadband expansion and rural business development. It also provides nutritional assistance for low-income families, seniors and people living with disabilities.
The Farm Bill is the perfect vehicle to drive our rural economy and support our way of life in rural Minnesota so that we not only survive, but thrive.
The U.S. House is expected to take up the farm bill next week.
The U.S. Senate hopes to pass a measure yet this year to address the multiple needs of today’s and tomorrow’s farmers, our rural communities and the importance of locally sourced food here in America.