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Opinion Catching Up With Kay

Senator Kay HaganLong-term farm bill would boost N.C.’s largest industry

Every year, Larry Bailey mows hay and grows 100 acres of soybeans on his farm in Rutherford County. Nearly 300 miles across our state, in Duplin County, third-generation farmer Larry Shaw tends to hundreds of acres of corn. And in Halifax County, near the Virginia border in northeastern North Carolina, Jerry Hamill grows peanuts that Americans enjoy in ballparks every summer.

Each of these farmers contributes to a bedrock institution of our North Carolina culture and economy. I believe it is imperative that we support this key North Carolina industry so that it can thrive for generations to come.

The Senate passed a bipartisan five-year farm bill last year that would have cut spending and reduced the federal deficitwhile providing policy certainty and regulatory relief for our farmers. As our state’s largest industry, agriculture generates $74 billion in economic activity and employs more than 650,000 North Carolinians — or the equivalent of everyone who lives in Raleigh and Durham combined. That’s nearly one-fifth of our workers.

I was disappointed that the 2012 Farm Bill languished in the House of Representatives after nearly two-thirds of Senators supported this legislation that would have saved billions of taxpayer dollars while supporting our farmers. The legislation would have cut $23 billion from our federal deficits by streamlining and reforming agricultural programs. A new safety net would also protect farmers against losses caused by events outside their control.

In addition to saving money for taxpayers, a new farm bill must strengthen the agricultural economy and support job growth in rural America. Like any business owners, our farmers need certainty to make the best decisions for the future of their families and their farms. The 2012 Farm Bill would have provided that much-needed policy certainty so that our farmers can focus on what they do best: farming.

As the Senate considers a new farm bill, I will continue to look for ways to make Department of Agriculture programs and resources more accessible to farmers in North Carolina. For example, last year the Senate unanimously approved my amendment — the “Plain Language” amendment — because it’s a commonsense measure that makes the details of crop insurance more readable and accessible. This provision will benefit all farmers at no cost to them or to taxpayers.

We must also reduce the regulatory burden that far too frequently falls on farmers. In particular, I will look for ways to eliminate unnecessary regulations that create a lot of red tape but don’t actually benefit our farmers or communities.

As we begin a new Congress, one of my top priorities is passing a bipartisan farm bill. This legislation was one of the first bills introduced in 2013, and I’m optimistic that we can come together — Democrats and Republicans from every region of the country—to support these initiatives and reforms that will strengthen our economy and protect our state’s proud agriculture tradition.

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