(Senate - June 27, 2018)

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[Congressional Record Volume 164, Number 108 (Wednesday, June 27, 2018)]
[Pages S4494-S4496]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []

                               FARM BILL

  Mr. BENNET. Mr. President, I would like to spend a few minutes on a 
major piece of business this week, our 2018 farm bill.
  Unlike so much of what comes to this floor--or never comes to this 
floor, never makes it to the floor--this is not a 5-month bill or a 5-
week bill or a 5-hour extension; this is an honest to goodness 5-year 
farm bill. That is 5 years of certainty and predictability for our 
farmers and ranchers. It is a testament to the great work of the Senate 
Agriculture Committee, and I want to thank Chairman Roberts and Ranking 
Member Stabenow for leading yet another bipartisan, consensus-driven 
  When Democrats were in charge way back in 2014, we passed a 
bipartisan farm bill then. Now we are doing it again, only this time 
the Republicans are in charge. That is how this place should work. We 
have set aside the political antics and focused on our farmers and 
ranchers and rural communities, especially when they have all faced 
more uncertainty than they have in years.
  In Colorado we have dealt with years of persistent drought. In the 
southern part of my State, waterflows in the Gunnison and Animas Rivers 
are at less than half of their average levels. Feed shortages are even 
forcing ranchers in Southwest Colorado to sell off their cattle. 
Besides drought, our farmers and ranchers are contending with erratic 
commodity prices, a broken immigration system that is actually putting 
some of them out of business because they can't find workers, and 
uncertainty over trade because of the administration's unusual approach 
to foreign policy. All of this has made it harder for them to plan for 
the next 5 months, let alone the next 5 years. This farm bill cannot 
come soon enough.
  The Agriculture Committee has put together an excellent piece of 
legislation. For the first time in 80 years, this bill legalizes hemp. 
We forget, but hemp was widely grown in the United States throughout 
the mid-1800s. Americans used hemp in fabrics, wine, and paper. Our 
government treated industrial hemp like any other farm commodity until 
the early 20th century, when a 1937 law defined it as a narcotic drug, 
dramatically limiting its growth. This became even worse in 1970 when 
hemp became a schedule I controlled substance.
  In Colorado, as is true across the country--I have talked to a lot of 
colleagues about this--we see hemp as a great opportunity to diversify 
our farms and manufacture high-margin products for the American people. 
That could help drive incomes in rural parts of my State, like Montrose 
County, CO.
  Let me tell my colleagues about Montrose. It is a rural mountain area 
on Colorado's West Slope. It flattens out to the west. I managed to win 
29 percent of the vote there in 2016, and I managed to win 29 percent 
the first time I ran as well. I can't seem to improve my position.
  I want to show my colleagues a picture from there. This is from 
Montrose. Here is their Republican State senator, my friend Don Coram, 
who is standing right here, standing in front of a hemp plant. This is 
his greenhouse. He was kind enough to let me visit this past March. He 
told me that hemp growers operate under a shadow of uncertainty, 
worried that at any moment somebody in the Justice Department is going 
to wake up one morning and decide to cripple their operations by 
targeting their access to water or labor.
  When we passed the last farm bill in 2014, Colorado farmers harvested 
around 200 acres of hemp. Last year, we harvested 9,000 acres, and that 
is despite the uncertainty around hemp's legal status. Our farm bill 
eliminates that uncertainty by legalizing hemp.
  If this farm bill passes, our growers are going to have a much easier 
time opening a bank account, buying and selling seeds, transporting 
their goods, and accessing water.
  This bill also gives hemp growers access to important risk management 
tools, like crop insurance.
  That is hemp that Don Coram, my Republican politician friend, is 
standing in front of at his greenhouse. This means dollars for rural 
Colorado and rural America, where the ingenuity and the creativity of 
people is already being unleashed on a crop that, until this farm bill 
was written, we could not grow in our country in a meaningful way and 
whose byproducts--the things that will create margins for our farmers--
were imported from Canada.
  Go into stores in the United States today and you will see hemp 
byproducts, hemp products, but they are grown in Canada. That doesn't 
make any sense. I am glad this farm bill fixes it, and I am glad the 
majority leader was the one who led the way on that.
  Looking ahead in the West, we know that the risks of drought and 
wildfire are only going to grow worse. That calls on us to make sure 
that risk management tools are using the best available data. Over the 
past year, we have worked with Colorado's ranchers to make sure the 
USDA has good drought and market data for livestock disaster 
  In uncertain times, these programs are critical to sustaining our 
farms and working lands, which are fundamental to our heritage in the 
West and the legacy we hope to leave the next generation.
  The same is true of our vast grasslands, healthy forests, and 
abundant wildlife. They are also fundamental to what it means to be in 
the West, which is why we made sure this farm bill emphasizes 
conservation and responsible management of our natural resources.
  In this bill, we increase funding for conservation easements. We also 
make the EQIP Program easier to access for small farmers and ranchers. 
That idea came directly from Mike Nolan, a vegetable grower in Mancos, 
CO, who was having trouble accessing conservation tools designed more 
for big farms than for his 7-acre operation.
  We reward farmers in this bill for improving soil health. We 
strengthen the Regional Conservation Partnership Program and reduce 
redtape for projects that improve drought resilience.
  We increase funding for voluntary wildlife habitat improvements on 
working lands--an approach in Colorado that has helped us protect 
habitat for iconic species like the Greater sage-grouse but to do it on 
our own and in collaboration on the ground.
  In Colorado, forests are one of our most important natural resources. 

[[Page S4495]]

health of our forests affects the strength of our outdoor economy, the 
quality of our water, and the safety of our communities from wildfire. 
This bill doubles funding for collaborative forest projects that 
promote forest health and reduce wildfire risk. It creates a new water 
source protection program to bring utilities and upstream communities 
together around forest health. It also requires the Forest Service to 
evaluate the health of our watersheds and monitor the effectiveness of 
treatments, and it provides new authority for the Forest Service to 
work with local communities on housing and infrastructure--a major 
issue in our mountain communities.
  Finally, this bill makes new investments in our rural communities by 
expanding access to high-speed internet and encouraging projects to 
improve energy efficiency, energy storage, and cyber security.
  Working with Senator Daines, we also maintain funding for the 
Voluntary Public Access Program to increase opportunities for hunting 
and fishing, which are so important to our outdoor recreation economy.
  All in all, this is a good bill. It would materially improve the 
lives in communities in Colorado and across America--something I don't 
get to say a lot about our work around here.
  It is even more impressive because the farm bill is not some tiny 
piece of inconsequential legislation. It is among the most complex 
things we do as a Congress. It touches every region of our country--
urban and rural--and involves thousands of different, often competing, 
interests. It affects the lives of every single American--whether they 
know it or not--through its investment in our food, forests, water, and 
  We passed this bill 20 to 1 in the Agriculture Committee. I told the 
majority leader the other day, when he came for our markup in the 
committee, that I wish he would send everything through the Agriculture 
Committee. Then we might actually get something done for the American 
people around here.
  We might fix our broken immigration system to make sure our farmers 
have access to the labor they need. We might address the threat of 
climate change and the strain it will put on our food systems. We might 
address the backlog of infrastructure projects in rural Colorado and 
all across the West, where some of our pipes and dams date back to the 
1950s. We might push for coherent trade policies that increase market 
access for our farmers and ranchers, instead of subjecting them to 
retaliation and uncertainty.
  There is a lot we could do if we took a page from the Senate 
Agriculture Committee and approached our work not oriented toward a 
political fight for the benefit of cable news but oriented toward a 
solution for the benefit of the American people. We need to get back to 
that kind of work around here.
  We can start by passing this bill and giving our farmers and ranchers 
the certainty they deserve from our government. Given all they do for 
us--providing the food, fuel, and fiber we rely on every single day--
that is the least we can do for them.
  I thank my colleague from Arkansas, who has joined me on the floor 
and has been such a great member of the Ag Committee as we brought this 
bill forward.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Arkansas.
  Mr. BOOZMAN. Mr. President, I also thank my colleague, the Senator 
from Colorado, for his efforts in getting this done. It has been a real 
bipartisan effort. We hear so much about all the infighting that goes 
on here, and this is certainly one of the underpinnings of our country. 
Again, we are working very hard to get it across the finish line. So I 
thank him very much.
  The majority leader recently announced his intention to keep the 
Senate in session through the majority of August. It is the right thing 
to do. We have a lot of work to complete ahead of us, and our to-do 
list just got a little bit longer with today's excellent news. The 12 
appropriations bills are at the top of that list. We have been busy 
clearing these bills at the committee level and now on the Senate 
floor. I am particularly pleased that Military Construction-VA 
appropriations bill was part of the first group of appropriations bills 
that received bipartisan approval here on the Senate floor.
  While we work to ensure passage of bills that fund vital Federal 
programs, we must also continue to pass the important bills that 
authorize them. We have a chance this week to add to our list of 
bipartisan achievements by passing the farm bill, which was recently 
approved by the Ag Committee with overwhelming support from both sides 
of the aisle.
  If you have ever been to Arkansas, I don't need to tell you how 
important the farm bill is to our State. You have seen it. You have 
seen the cotton fields, the rice silos, the chicken farms, the cattle 
ranches. We have it all in the Natural State. In fact, 95 percent of 
the land resources of Arkansas are devoted to agriculture and forestry. 
While there is variety in what our farmers grow or raise on their land, 
the family farm is a way of life shared by thousands of Arkansans.
  Agriculture is a driving force of the Natural State's economy, adding 
$16 billion to our economy every year and accounting for approximately 
one in every six jobs. But the farm economy is in a much different 
place than the last time this Chamber debated a farm bill. That is the 
case not just in my home State of Arkansas; it is an issue nationwide. 
If you look at the numbers across the Nation, farm income is 
approximately half of what it was then. Farm bankruptcies are up by 39 
percent since 2014; financing is becoming more expensive; input costs 
are rising; and the trade outlook is volatile and uncertain.
  Farmers across the country, regardless of where they call home or 
which crops they grow, are hurting. They are experiencing the most 
fragile farm economy since the 1980s farm crisis. With the current farm 
bill set to expire at the end of September, we must pass a new one in a 
timely manner to provide certainty and predictability to the folks who 
feed and clothe our Nation and the world.
  Programs authorized by the farm bill are vital to making sure that as 
a nation we do not become dependent on other countries for our food 
supply. Along with providing key risk management tools for our farmers, 
the farm bill also helps our rural communities by authorizing key 
economic development and job creation programs. It helps rural 
Arkansans with everything from home financing to internet access to 
small business loans.
  The Agriculture Committee, under the leadership of Chairman Roberts 
and Ranking Member Stabenow, approved a fair and equitable farm bill 
with overwhelming bipartisan support. I was particularly pleased to see 
that the committee-passed mark maintained strong farm policy for 
producers of all stripes. These programs allow our Nation's family 
farms to compete in a high-risk, heavily subsidized global marketplace. 
As we debate amendments on the floor, we must defeat amendments that 
would harm the farm safety net for our producers.
  Ensuring that producers across the Nation have options that meet 
their specific needs when those needs are so varied is a delicate 
balance to strive for, but the chairman and ranking member have 
achieved it. I appreciate what a heavy lift it is and what it took to 
get to this point, and I hope the Senate as a whole does as well.
  I do have very deep concerns about provisions included in the 
substitute amendment that undermine this delicate balance. One 
provision in particular, aimed at bolstering small family farms, will, 
in fact, hurt family farms across the country. Unfortunately, we do not 
know exactly how deep this cut will be. The provision was not filed as 
an amendment, and Senators were not given time to properly read it. But 
I do know one thing: This will hurt farmers and the rural communities 
where they live. USDA estimates that my home State of Arkansas will be 
the third most impacted State, behind Texas and Illinois. Iowa will be 
the fourth most impacted State.
  This provision does not discriminate against regions. It 
discriminates against farmers and those who feed and clothe this 
Nation. I am very much opposed to this language, but I am thankful that 
the House did not take this tack in crafting its farm policy.
  I am committed to working to remove this provision before we enact a 
final farm bill this Congress. We must provide a farm bill that gives 
producers certainty and predictability without further exacerbating the 
difficult farm economy they are facing.

[[Page S4496]]

  If we can commit to continuing to follow the fair and equitable 
approach that was exhibited when we fashioned the bill in committee, we 
can pass a farm bill that has a chance to become law. Let's not 
squander this opportunity.
  Our farmers in rural America need this bill. Let's get it passed so 
that we can provide our farmers and ranchers with the certainty and 
predictability they need to succeed.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. UDALL. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.