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  • Asking the Experts: U.S. Senator John Hoeven on ag, tech and federal initiatives

  • Asking the Experts: U.S. Senator John Hoeven on ag, tech and federal initiatives

    Asking the Experts: U.S. Senator John Hoeven on ag, tech and federal initiatives

    This month, we chatted with Senator Hoeven about a range of federal programs and work to support business and industry. Read on to see what he shared with us about supporting farmers, ranchers, producers and ag tech in our region and across the country.

    Throughout your time as governor, and now as U.S. Senator, you’ve prioritized building a pro-growth business environment, and there has been significant progress toward this goal under the current administration. How has this approach benefitted agriculture?
    North Dakota truly is a leader in agriculture, and our farmers and ranchers are a key pillar in our efforts to strengthen our state’s economy. To this end, we have worked to ensure our tax and regulatory relief efforts help our producers succeed. Through the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, we lowered rates across the board for families and provided significant relief for small businesses, directly benefitting farm families and their operations. Further, we helped broker an agreement to maintain the Section 199 deduction for cooperatives. This is a vitally important policy for producers in the Red River Valley, and we continue our efforts with the U.S. Department of the Treasury to ensure the final rule works for farmers.

    At the same time, we’ve eased the burden of federal rules on farmers and ranchers, as well as many other industries, like construction and energy production. For instance, we worked with the administration to replace the 2015 Waters of the U.S. rule and pressed for the new rule to protect private property rights and provide certainty to producers.

    Between natural disasters, trade uncertainty and the COVID-19 pandemic, farmers have faced widespread difficulties recently. In what ways has the federal government worked to assist producers in overcoming these challenges?

    Natural Disasters

    • We helped secure presidential disaster declarations for North Dakota, which makes federal resources available to impacted counties.
    • We also ensured our state’s producers are eligible for the $4.5 billion in disaster funding passed by Congress and worked to provide coverage for blizzards, excessive moisture and quality losses under the Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus.
      • This includes $285 million in disaster assistance for sugar cooperatives that we funded through the Agriculture Appropriations Committee. We then worked with the administration to reach agreement on this assistance, which cover 100 percent of eligible losses for 2018 and 2019.

    • As chairman of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committee, we secured nearly $25 billion to assist agriculture producers through the pandemic.
    • Following this, we facilitated feedback from local producers to USDA to inform the implementation of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, and pressed the administration on the importance of moving this assistance forward for those impacted by low commodity prices, like livestock producers.
    • While these have been good steps, we continue working to ensure USDA has the funds it needs to assist producers over the long-term.

    Trade Uncertainty
    • We have been pressing the administration to finalize its trade negotiations as quickly as possible. We are encouraged the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement going into effect and continue to advance additional market access with China, the EU, Japan and others.
    • In order to help producers weather this uncertainty, we have provided trade assistance through Market Facilitation Program payments, among other efforts.

    The Farm Bill has long been one of the most important federal priorities for our state. The last iteration of this legislation was passed in 2018, with you serving as a conference committee member. What were your key priorities in helping craft this bill and what should be considered in the future bill?
    For the 2018 Farm Bill, we worked to maintain a strong crop insurance program, which is the primary risk management tool for producers, and to improve the counter-cyclical programs – Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage. Other key achievements in the 2018 Farm Bill include:
    • Maintaining a strong sugar policy.
    • Passing my legislation to increase the Farm Service Agency’s direct and guaranteed ownership and operating loans.
    • Supporting agriculture research, including at land-grant institutions like NDSU.
    • Protecting private property rights and making wetlands regulations more farmer-friendly.

    The current Farm Bill expires in 2023. We continue to engage our state’s producers, commodity groups and the administration to ensure the existing programs work for farm country, and we will advance many of these same priorities in the lead-up to the next Farm Bill.

    Here in the Red River Valley, we’ve seen a rapid growth in the tech industry. In what direction are tech developments taking agriculture, and what might the benefits be for producers?
    The convergence of technology and agriculture is a natural evolution for North Dakota’s economy. Accordingly, we have worked to leverage our universities as engines of innovation, and we continue advancing legislation to support entrepreneurs in their ventures. Further, we’ve helped build the infrastructure, like broadband, that we need to support our growing tech sector. Across the past three fiscal years, we provided $1.6 billion for rural broadband development through USDA’s ReConnect Program and passed bills into law to ensure adequate broadband coverage in rural areas.

    Through these and other efforts, we have helped lay the foundation for initiatives like Grand Farm, led by Emerging Prairie. This makerspace supports the development and testing of autonomous technologies for the ag sector, toward the goal of improving producers’ efficiency and yields while reducing operating costs. To this end, we have secured $8 million for rural innovation initiatives at USDA and are supporting Emerging Prairie in securing federal funding to help realize these exciting possibilities.

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