Last month, I joined my colleagues in the Senate to pass the 2012 Farm Bill, which governs agriculture, conservation and nutrition policy. As a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, I used input from Coloradans across the state to help craft a bipartisan, fiscally responsible bill that reduces our deficit by $23 billion.
Much of the savings comes from reforms to risk management, where we’ve eliminated direct payments and consolidated other programs in favor of a strengthened crop insurance program. Colorado producers repeatedly have told me that crop insurance is the best way to support this critical sector of the American economy. Also, this bill calls on the Department of Agriculture to extend crop insurance eligibility to previously unserved crops, including fruits, vegetables and organics.
In my discussions with Colorado farmers and ranchers, I also heard regularly about the importance of conserving their way of life and their land. This bill does that by consolidating and adding flexibility to conservation easement programs that will allow more landowners to enter into easements to preserve the farming and ranching heritage of their land.
The bill also reauthorizes stewardship contracting authority, a provision I pushed to promote forest health and help prevent wildfires. I also teamed up with Sen. Mark Udall to include increased resources in the bill for bark beetle mitigation.
Agriculture is a critical part of our state’s economy and an essential component to our economic recovery. This bill will help keep rural America growing and thriving, and it will help invigorate an economy just now getting back on its feet. I am hopeful that the bipartisanship the Senate displayed will give this bill the momentum it needs to pass the House of Representatives and reach the president’s desk and be signed into law.
Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo.