Minnesota Senator Tina Smith was sworn into office in early January with former senator and vice president Walter Mondale by her side.
Smith was selected by Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton to complete the term of former senator Al Franken, who resigned amid allegation of inappropriate conduct.
With four months now on the job, Smith is in the thick of the legislative process with, among other things, the new farm bill on her plate. “In southwest Minnesota and all of Minnesota our economy….the foundation for our economy is agriculture whether it’s Corn or Soybeans or pork producers and it’s a huge part of our economy.”
Smith says any farm bill must strengthen small family farmers by giving them a program that allows them to better weather the effects of any storm…both literal weather disasters and the figurative pitfalls that can derail a family operation. “When you think about the pressures that farmers are experiencing in agriculture; low commodity prices, input prices are high, costs are high, a lot of worries about healthcare costs. There’s a lot of stress in farm country and we need to get a farm bill done to give them some predictability.”
But beyond what may be seen as the traditional elements of a farm bill, Smith says she is also going to work to champion better nutrition programs that are typically association with farm bill legislation; programs that help people who may not be able to help themselves right now.
But Smith then says there is a third component she is trying to work into the farm bill. “Our farm bill needs to include strong rural development programs like, for example, what I’m proposing to help expand rural broadband.”
That broadband component is becoming more and more of an issue for rural areas.