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Heitkamp: Farm bill likely to pass soon

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp

Farmers might be looking at the end of the debate on a farm bill in the next two weeks, according to Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., who spoke at the 2014 Precision Ag Action Summit Monday.

“I would be shocked if we don’t have a bill done in two weeks,” she said. “We are in the final throws of getting this done.”

Heitkamp said the Senate is in recess this week while its members meet with constituents. The earliest possible action would be Jan. 27. At that time, the Senate conference committee report would be issued, and the legislation would be acted on by the House and Senate.

“We’ll get a vast majority in the Senate and a narrow majority in the House,” she said. The bill would move on to the president’s desk for signature after it passes both houses.

Heitkamp said the bill is good for North Dakota and includes provisions to maintain crop insurance programs and enhanced programs for beginning farmers.

The enhancements include easier access to credit and more forgiving production histories that lessen the impact of disaster years early in their careers.

“Beginning farmers have a special need for protection,” Heitkamp said. “It is so much more difficult and expensive to start a farm operation today compared to past generations.”

The bill, as currently written, is retroactive to 2012. Heitkamp also warned that the new farm bill has changes in procedures.

“Don’t assume you know the farm bill,” she said. “There are some interesting options but you will only get one opportunity to exercise those options.”

Heitkamp’s website said the new farm bill will provide a strong safety net for North Dakota farmers and ranchers while reducing program costs by about $24 billion through reforms.

More information will be available through organizations such as the Farmers Union and Farm Bureau once the legislation passes.

Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at 701-952-8452 or by email at