Indiana has a proud agricultural tradition. Nearly 190,000
Hoosiers work in agriculture on the 83 percent of our state’s land devoted to
farms or forests. In 2011 alone, $38 billion dollars of Indiana’s economy came
from the hard work of our Hoosier farmers.
For these reasons and more, it is crucial for Indiana’s ag
community, and for our entire state’s economy and well-being, that Congress
reach an agreement on a long-term farm bill.
On June 10, the Senate passed a five-year farm bill, the
Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2013. As a member of the Senate
Agriculture Committee, I worked hard to make sure this legislation reflected
many of the ideas I heard directly from Indiana’s ag community.
The legislation we passed would give farmers the certainty
they deserve and the resources they need to make long-term decisions about their
crops. It would also make the government more efficient by increasing
accountability and eliminating duplicative or unnecessary programs.
We made the tough decisions necessary to cut spending, and
this bill would reduce the deficit by $23 billion as we 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.
During committee debate, I introduced an amendment with Sen.
Pat Roberts, R-Kan., that would provide the next generation of bioenergy crops
access to base levels of risk management, so that a reasonable safety net would
be in place for energy crops.
This amendment would amend the Noninsured Crop Disaster
Assistance Program to offer coverage for crops producing feedstock for energy
Further, the amendment would direct the USDA to research and
develop risk management tools for promising new sorghum crops. This amendment
was included in the legislation that passed the Senate.
Also, I helped introduce an amendment that would help ensure
that Hoosier farmers have access to the technical assistance they need to
implement good conservation practices. Hoosier farmers know that proper
conservation techniques increase yields, mitigate drought and protect the
quality of our land.
My amendment would streamline the delivery of technical
assistance programs to better reflect the unique needs of our local
Finally, I continued my efforts from the 2008 farm bill to
ensure that there are no restrictions on Hoosier farmers who want to grow fruits
After a successful Farm Flex pilot program, I worked to
expand full planting flexibility for farmers in Indiana and across the country,
so they can grow what they’d like on their own farms.
The Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2013 is a
common-sense bill, and I’m pleased to see it pass the Senate. It’s an example of
both parties working together to do good things for our economy.
Now, it is the House of Representatives’ turn. It is my hope
that Congress can come to an agreement and pass a farm bill in order to protect
the approximately 16 million ag-related jobs nationwide.
No one is going to get everything they want, but we need a
five-year farm bill to give American farmers the ability to plan.
Farmers in Indiana and across our great nation deserve more
than the partisan, political gridlock that prevented a five-year farm bill from
getting done last year.