A May 7 editorial ("Small farms lose as crop program grows") took me to task for supporting a strong safety net for Minnesota farmers.
Minnesota is a farm state -- agriculture is 20 percent of our state's economy -- so I've spent a lot of time with Minnesota producers and farm leaders discussing the best way to structure a new five-year farm bill.
Farmers understand that in tight budget times, every part of the budget -- including agriculture -- must take hits. So, far from "throwing money at farmers," as the editorial argues, the farm bill moving through the Senate not only cuts billions in spending but also eliminates direct payments and other farm subsidies.
But farming is inherently risky. In return for these cuts, Minnesota farmers need an adequate safety net -- including a strong crop-insurance program -- so that disease, pests, drought, flood, hail or other disasters won't devastate them and the rural communities they support.
I agree we must help more Minnesotans get into farming, but our crop-insurance program is not -- as the editorial contends -- the major barrier to getting started. There are significant entry barriers, which is why I am a huge supporter of the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Program.
A strong farm safety net -- including affordable crop insurance -- is critical to our state's economy.