North Dakota farmers urge Farm Bill passage with deadline days away

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - North Dakota farmers are in a tight spot. They are airing out their concerns in Washington. Some say they need certainty or livelihoods will be devastated.

“We are in a big crisis,” said Mark Watne, president of the North Dakota Farmers Union.

He and100 fellow North Dakotans traveled to Washington this week with a message for lawmakers: pass the Farm Bill. That is legislation that comes around every five years providing security for farmers and families that need help getting food.

“We’re going to tell them what we’re feeling out there. And they’re going to know before we go that this is way more serious than they may want to admit,” said Watne.

The entire North Dakota Congressional delegation is part of the group finalizing the Farm Bill package. The current Farm Bill expires on September 30, so they have just a few days to plant confidence in their farmers.

“There’s no reasons we shouldn’t get this done now. Let’s not use all the clock available, let’s do it,” said Senator John Hoeven (R-ND).

Hoeven says members are hung up on House and Senate disagreements regarding work requirements for folks who use food stamps. House Republicans are calling for stricter requirements in their version of the Farm Bill.

Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) says there are also issues with the commodity portion of the legislation. She says members are trying to iron out differences as the deadline nears.

“I’m not in the prediction business. I can only tell you that, as far as I’m concerned, it’s my top priority between now and the end of the year,” said Heitkamp.

Heitkamp’s opponent in her Senate race, Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) says he is not convinced the lawmakers will meet the deadline. But he says an extension of the current bill will give North Dakota farmers much-needed assurances.

“Just because the final product isn’t done, progress is being made and people are getting closer,” said Cramer.

The House is going on a weeklong recess next week. Some Congressional staff will still be in Washington to continue work on the Bill.

President Donald Trump weighed in on the legislation Thursday. In a Tweet he wrote, “Senator Debbie Stabenow and the Democrats are totally against approving the Farm Bill. They are fighting tooth and nail to not allow our Great Farmers to get what they so richly deserve. Work requirements are imperative and the Dems are a NO. Not good!”