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Sen. Johnson urges passage of new farm bill

Tim Johnson

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- U.S. Sen. Tim Johnson urged his colleagues Monday to work together to pass the next farm bill.

Johnson, D-S.D., said it would give certainty to farmers, save taxpayers more than $23 billion over the next 10 years and support millions of jobs. He is a member of the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee.

"With this bill, we are taking several important steps in making our farm support system more responsive to actual need rather than sending payments to producers no matter what they grow," Johnson said in his speech on the Senate floor.

"We are long past due in eliminating direct payments. At the same time, we are maintaining a strong crop insurance program and creating a new system that makes assistance available to producers when they actually experience a loss."

Johnson said a reform in payment limitations and ensuring that actual farmers receive payments is long overdue.

"The new Agriculture Risk Coverage program contains a cap of $50,000 and requires that program payment recipients contribute labor to the farm operation," he said. "Current law has enabled multiple farm managers in an operation to qualify for separate farm program payments with as little participation as one conference call a year. Not anymore under this bill. I am disappointed there have been amendments filed to weaken this language."

Johnson praised efforts to "combine and streamline our conservation programs while still allowing us to continue meeting the same land, water and wildlife goals" and he praised the sodsaver provision that will discourage the breaking of native sod for crop production.

He said he was disappointed the bill does not contain a livestock title.

"However, I have joined with some of my colleagues in filing amendments to give our independent livestock producers a fair shake in the marketplace," Johnson said.

Johnson urged the Senate to move forward on the bill.

"I hope that we can avoid letting a small minority of senators hold up progress on this bill," he said. "It's time that we act, and that we give our producers certainty."

From a transcript of Sen. Johnson's speech