With final passage of a new five-year farm bill likely early next week, North Dakota’s congressional delegation praised the work on the oft-delayed legislation finally coming to a close.

Prior to a Friday roundtable discussion with state agricultural industry leaders and producers, Sens. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., said the bill will greatly benefit farmers after two years of doubt of its passage.

“This has broad bipartisan support,” Heitkamp said. “I’ve been working very long and very hard on getting a five-year farm bill that provides certainty (to farmers).”

On Wednesday the House approved the farm bill by a 251-166 vote. The bill recently came out of conference committee which Hoeven served as a member of.

“This is a good bill. We worked very hard on this in conference committee,” Hoeven said. “We had a big-time vote in the House. I think we’re in a strong position (now).”

The bill awaiting a final Senate vote next week contains approximately $24 billion in deficit reduction. Included in these savings are $14 billion from commodities and $8 billion from food stamps.

The new bill also contains a supplemental coverage option that adds to crop insurance. Farmers would be able to utilize the new Agricultural Risk Coverage program, called ARC, to cover losses from yield or price collapses.

“It focuses number one on crop insurance which is very important to our producers,” Hoeven said.

He noted that the farm bill also renews the sugar program which will be of great benefit to farmers in the Red River Valley. Also helping farmers in the region is a rural water management and flood protection provision. It includes a $500 million allocation for the Regional Conservation Partnership Program which can help with flood protection in the valley.

Heitkamp said she and Hoeven were disappointed with a provision that ties conservation compliance to crop insurance. This was something they had both wanted decoupled in the final bill but were unsuccessful. She said Hoeven’s amendment to not make this requirement retroactive was a positive however.

Heitkamp said the hard work begins following final passage in implementation. Passage should be by a fair margin, she said.

“I think it’s going to have closer to 70 votes than 60,” Heitkamp said.

Hoeven said the bill may not have everything everyone wanted or the level of savings some lawmakers wanted but it’s a strong piece of legislation nonetheless.

“It’s (for) a lot more than our farmers and ranchers, it’s really (for) everyone,” Hoeven said.

Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., said he also was pleased with the final farm bill in a joint release sent out Friday by the state delegation.

“Crop insurance is the heart of the farm bill, and I am pleased we were able to strengthen it while demonstrating once again how agriculture can lead the way in finding savings to taxpayers,” Cramer said.

Reach Nick Smith at 250-8255 or 223-8482 or at nick.smith@bismarcktribune.com.

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