It is rare that Washington agrees on much of anything these days.
But last week, the Senate came together – Democrats and Republicans – to pass the most significant reform of American agriculture policy in decades.
Agriculture is the largest industry in our state, employing hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians, and my first priority during debate on the 2013 Farm Bill was making sure it worked for North Carolina’s farmers.
I was proud to work with Senators from both sides of the aisle to pass a bill that does just that.
The Senate Farm bill provides the certainty our farmers need to keep our agriculture economy growing. It creates new safety net measures and strengthens the programs our farmers depend on most – to grow their crops, do business and continue to create jobs.
I heard from North Carolina’s farm families and agribusinesses throughout this process, and I worked hard to make sure their voices were heard in Washington.
For example, I led a bipartisan coalition to defeat an amendment to make tobacco farmers ineligible for federal crop insurance assistance. This amendment would have done nothing to lower smoking rates or address public health issues. It would have only served to increase imports of foreign tobacco and threaten the livelihood of 2,000 small tobacco farmers in North Carolina.
Another provision I worked on helps address crop insurance fraud. After a major crop insurance fraud case was uncovered in North Carolina earlier this year, I heard from our farmers about their concerns that in these difficult budget times, the actions of a few bad actors could jeopardize federal crop insurance programs for those farmers who rely on them. I crafted an amendment that provides the Risk Management Agency with the necessary resources to combat fraud and preserve safety-net programs for the overwhelming majority of honest, hardworking farmers.
I also secured numerous provisions important to North Carolina farmers and our economy, including funding to spur growth and jobs in North Carolina’s historic cotton textile sector and provide technical assistance to historically underserved and veteran farmers. The Farm Bill also includes my “plain language” provision to make information about federal crop insurance policies more readable and accessible to farmers.
And it’s important to point out that the Farm Bill accomplishes all this while cutting the deficit by $24 billion.
I am proud of the Senate’s work on the Farm Bill, which is a true win for North Carolina’s farmers and our economy. I believe this bill represents the type of bipartisan and commonsense cooperation that North Carolinians value. I urge the House of Representatives to swiftly pass this important legislation in the same bipartisan manner. Our farmers have waited long enough.
You can follow Senator Kay Hagan on Twitter @SenatorHagan, visit the Senator’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/senatorhagan or view videos on the Senator’s YouTube Channel at www.youtube.com/senatorhagan.