WASHINGTON D.C. (WJON News) - Minnesota farmers testified before a Senate subcommittee Tuesday.

The U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry is seeking comments from farmers before starting negotiations on the next Farm Bill.

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The current Farm Bill is set to expire on September 30th.

Neil Rockstad is a farmer near Hendrum, and the Vice-President of the American Sugarbeet Grower’s Association. He says sugar’s contribution to the state, and national, economy cannot be overstated.

The Farm Bill represents a critical safety net for our farming families and the employees of our sugar processors throughout the country. The U.S. sugar industry generates more than 151,000 jobs spanning 24 states and introduces $23 billion annually to the US economy. American consumers also benefit from a high-quality, safe, reliable, and affordable source of sugar used as a sweetener, preservatives, and bulking agent (in) 70% of packaged foods.

Rockstad mentioned that due to trade deals with other nations, the United States is the third largest importer of sugar, accounting for 30% of the nation’s needs. Recent conflicts worldwide have demonstrated the need for a strong domestic sugar program.

Harold Wolle farms near Medalia and serves as the First Vice-President of the National Corn Growers Association. He’s currently in the process of turning over control of his family farm to his son. He says all eyes are on Congress and the Farm Bill negotiations.

Farmers across the country are busy today planting seeds and preparing for a strong crop and future harvests. The committee's continued outreach is laying the critical groundwork for a strong bipartisan farm bill. Corn Growers are as optimistic about this process as we are for this year's harvest.

Wolle said adjustments to crop insurance are necessary to provide a financial safety net to the next generation of family farmers.

The committee will hear testimony from a number of farm and nutrition groups before beginning negotiations on a new five-year Farm Bill to replace the existing bill that will expire this fall.

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