Sen. Coleman supports farm bill

Sen. Coleman has been actively involved in crafting the farm bill during the past year.

It was with great interest, and shared frustration over the lack of progress on the current farm bill being debated in Congress, that I read your editorial on the subject on Tuesday. However, I was somewhat surprised at the parting shot singling out Sen. Norm Coleman for not “convincing Republican colleagues” to support the bill – despite that fact that Coleman himself actually voted in favor of the bill.

In fact, Coleman has consistently worked with his colleagues on both sides of the aisle – including North Dakota Sen. Kent Conrad and Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss to build a stronger safety net for our farm families and Minnesotans families struggling with hunger.

As a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Coleman has been actively involved in crafting the farm bill over the last year. It was Coleman who led efforts that resulted in the establishment of the nation’s first-ever sugar to ethanol program, which will act as a safety net for Minnesotan sugar growers. Coleman was also a key supporter of increasing the loan rate for our sugar farmers – another major priority for thousands of farm families in the Red River Valley. This is in addition to his work to improve the safety net for dairy farmers, maintain the integrity of the commodity title and establish a permanent disaster assistance program – all of which were included in the Senate bill.

The editorial also mentioned the need to pass the significant investments in conservation, as well as nutrition, that this bill contains. Coleman has fully supported both. In fact, Coleman was successful in securing funding that increases the funding available for The Emergency Food Assistance Program, which provides food commodities to states to provide food aid for needy persons through food banks and homeless shelter projects, by $10 million a year.

Coleman has and will continue to support this bill, but ultimately it falls to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to set a bipartisan procedural path – similar to the process used the last time around – that will allow this bill to move forward. Instead, Reid prohibited Republicans from having the right to offer any amendments, which upset many members and contributed greatly to the current stalemate.

The good news is that we are growing closer to an agreement that will offer both sides an opportunity to vote on a limited number of the hundreds of amendments that have been filed to the farm bill.

Coleman frequently points out that there are some issues that are too big for one party to solve. Agriculture is one of them, and he will continue working with both Republicans and Democrats to pass this farm bill that is sorely needed by Minnesotans.

Luke Friedrich is Minnesota Press Secretary for Sen. Norm Coleman. Please send comments to [email protected]