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2012 Farm Bill passes Senate

Curtis Amundson unloads a full hopper of pinto beans on his Pickett bean combine north of East Grand Forks on Monday ahead of the rain forecast today and Wednesday. It was the second day of combining beans for Amundson.Herald photo by Eric Hylden.

With unified support from Minnesota's and North Dakota's delegations, the 2012 Farm Bill passed the Senate on Thursday.

The Senate voted 64-35 in favor of the bill, an action that puts the legislation in the House's hands.

Senate support came from 46 Democrats, 16 Republicans and the Senate's two independents.

Minnesota Democratic Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar were quick to praise the Senate's action on the legislation, which they said represented a "fiscally responsible" approach to future farm and nutrition funding.

"I'm proud that our farmers are doing their part to address the deficit by eliminating direct payments, but I'm also pleased that we passed a strong safety net - in the form of crop insurance subsidies - to protect producers when a bad year hits," Franken said in a statement after the vote.

The bill also preserves the sugar program and encourages conservation and renewable energy projects, Franken said.

Klobuchar - a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, which helped craft the bill - said "today's bipartisan vote is a victory for this critical legislation."

"I worked hard to ensure the legislation supported a strong sugar program, and I will continue to work to move this legislation forward," Klobuchar said in a statement.

Sens. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., and John Hoeven, R-N.D. - who also sit on the Senate Ag Committee -also praised the chamber's passage of the Farm Bill.

"We've passed a good, strong Farm Bill that will help producers manage risk, create jobs and reduce the deficit and debt, but we still have work before us," Hoeven said in a statement. "We have enhanced crop insurance for our producers, but there is still more work to be done."

The bill provides more than $23 billion in deficit reduction, with $15 billion coming from farm programs and $6 billion coming from conservation programs, Hoeven said.

Conrad agreed that the bill is fiscally responsible, "but it also maintains the farm safety net."

"No state has done better under the last Farm Bill than our state," the North Dakota senator said. "This bill, too, is North Dakota friendly."

Conrad said there's room for improvement in the conference committee, which would meet if the House passes its own version of the bill.

Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson, the ranking Democrat on the House Ag Committee, told The Forum's Editorial Board last week that he expected the Farm Bill to pass the House by the end of this summer, assuming there are no hang-ups.

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