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Hoeven: Supporting our farmers and ranchers during unprecedented challenges

Every American benefits every day from the highest-quality, lowest-cost food supply in the world. As the Ranking Member on the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committee and a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, I am focused on ensuring that our producers have the tools they need to succeed and that federal farm programs remain farmer-friendly. Over the past several years, we’ve provided support for producers to overcome challenges from natural disasters to market disruptions.

Among other priorities, we worked hard to secure strong support for our producers as part of COVID-19 assistance packages. Last year, as the chairman of the Senate Ag Appropriations Committee, I secured more than $40 billion in COVID relief funding to help farmers and ranchers. That includes the $13 billion approved in December on a bipartisan basis to support farmers, ranchers and the agriculture sector.

Instead of continuing to find consensus on additional COVID-19 assistance, the Biden administration is forcing through on party lines a $1.9 trillion package that goes far beyond COVID relief. At this point, their partisan package provides USDA dollars to a limited number of producers, instead of supporting producers across the board like we’ve done in previous rounds. At the same time, the Biden administration ignored congressional intent and put a freeze on certain Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) payments that we secured in a bipartisan manner under previous COVID response legislation.

That’s why, during his confirmation hearing, I pressed Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to ensure that USDA understands the priorities and programs important to North Dakota producers. That includes:

– Delivering the $13 billion in agriculture assistance appropriated by Congress in December. USDA needs to finish distributing the remaining funds under the CFAP and provide producers with these funds as Congress directed.

– Following through on the recently-finalized Quality Loss Assistance (QLA) program that we advanced to help producers recover from quality losses due to natural disasters in 2018 and 2019. Last year, I secured an additional $1.5 billion for the Wildfire, Hurricane and Indemnity Program Plus (WHIP+) and QLA programs to ensure program funding is sufficient to meet demand from producers.

– Safeguarding Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) funding for the USDA to administer the programs required by the Farm Bill, like Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC).

– Improving competition and price transparency in livestock markets.

In legislation approved at the end of the year, we directed USDA to create a livestock dealer trust to help ensure livestock producers are paid their due when a dealer defaults on payments. This trust comes as part of our broader efforts to support our ranchers and provide them with access to fair and transparent markets. To this end, I supported a Department of Justice investigation under the Trump Administration into allegations of price manipulation in the cattle market. I also continue advancing legislation to make needed market reforms, such as a bill I cosponsored last Congress to require that a minimum of 50 percent of a meat packer’s weekly volume of beef slaughter be purchased on the open or spot market. Moreover, we continue to support better access to foreign markets and trade for all of our producers and will press the Biden administration to build on the progress we made in the past four years with the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, as well as with China, Japan, the European Union and other nations.

While we continue to advance these priorities, we’ll also work to hold the new administration accountable. That includes ensuring that any new USDA initiatives do not come at the expense of existing programs. Additionally, during his confirmation hearing, I made it clear to Secretary Vilsack that any new carbon reduction programs, like a carbon bank, need to be voluntary, farmer-friendly and benefit producers directly. At the same time, we will work to stop the new administration from increasing the regulatory burden on our producers, such as the reinstatement of the Obama-era Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule or any unworkable climate change mandates. We need farmer-friendly programs.

Our producers have continued to provide food, fuel and fiber to meet our nation’s needs despite unprecedented challenges, and we’ll continue working to ensure that they have the support they need from Congress and the new administration to get past these difficult times and return to a stable farm economy.

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