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AgriTalk Transcript: Senator Amy Klobuchar

Senator Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.) was a guest on Thursday’s AgriTalk radio program with Mike Adams, where the conversation focused on the Farm Bill, trade, and the proposed Waters of the U.S. rule from EPA.

This is an unofficial FarmPolicy.com transcript of their discussion.

Mr. Adams: And welcome back to AgriTalk. As we continue with our conversations with members of Congress, we’re happy to have Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar with us. Senator, thanks for taking time. I know it’s a busy time with the budget bill. Give us your thoughts on it.

Sen. Klobuchar: Well, you know, we’re not going to agree on everything, that’s for sure. These budget bills can kind of be both sides fighting it out. But I think in the end what’s important is that we try to work on things where we can find common ground. Certainly that happened with the farm bill. Now I think it’s happening with the implementation of the farm bill.

Senator Roberts and Senator Stabenow working together have had some good hearings, and that appears to be going as smoothly as it can. We’ve got that new program and choices people have to make by the end of March, so that’s where a lot of focus I’ve had on is that, and then trying to do what we can to open up markets for our farmers. Minnesota is one of the top five states for exports of ag products, and we’re really proud of that. We want to keep that up.

Mr. Adams: Well, let’s talk about that because I’m out here banging the drum for opening up trade with Cuba, but I keep running—

Sen. Klobuchar: Well, you’ve found your girl.

Mr. Adams: Good.

Sen. Klobuchar: So I’m actually leading that bill in the Senate.

Mr. Adams: Good, because I’m hearing resistance from [the Senate].

Sen. Klobuchar: Oh, yeah.

Mr. Adams: How are you doing on getting that through?

Sen. Klobuchar: Well, I already have three Republicans with me, Senator Flake and Senator Enzi of Wyoming, and then Senator Paul. And then we have some pretty big Democrats on it—Senator Stabenow, the ranking on the Ag Committee, and Senator Durbin, Senator Leahy. So we are pretty excited about the authors that we have. I went to Cuba a few weeks ago with Senator Warner and McCaskill. I was amazed at all the possibility there. Went out to part of the rural areas and see the big possibilities out there as well as people wanting American goods.

Eleven million people just 90 miles off our shore. What a market that can be for us. Not only that, to help the Cuban people. And I truly believe the people are ahead of their government. Just walking around there, everywhere you see the date December 17th. That’s on their artwork. And to us that means nothing. To them, that’s the day that the Presidents, both of them, said they wanted to open relations.

Mr. Adams: I’ve been there, too. I came away with the same impressions. But we’ve heard arguments here saying you can’t trust them to pay, trade isn’t going to help the people there. How do you respond to those things?

Sen. Klobuchar: Well, I think our 50, over 50 years of a policy that hasn’t worked, that’s how I first respond. Secondly, you know, this is going to go slowly, and this is going to be private investment, just like everything—some works, some doesn’t.

But what we’re talking about is opening up a relation that we have with many other countries. And I figure the only way we’re going to see the kind of human rights improvements is by negotiating some of this, ultimately lifting the embargo. And right now our countries are negotiating on potentially opening embassies, have ambassadors. We haven’t even done that. So there is a lot of work that needs to be done.

Mr. Adams: Yeah, I’ve always believed we could bring about more good change by doing more with them rather than less.

Sen. Klobuchar: Right, exactly. And they are just thirsty for American culture, and have so many relatives, obviously, people who’ve left in America that they want to see. And the tourism is a huge possibility as well. So I think it’s really exciting. And it was great to see all the old cars and the old buildings, and I know Americans want to see that, but we still have to remember there’s nothing romantic about poverty, and that is the issue there because they just haven’t had any…they’re just starting to have a private sector.

Six hundred thousand people are now in the entrepreneurial sector, starting their own businesses. They literally have their own currency because…they have two currencies because it’s such a mess. So we know that change has to be made. But I think it’s just an example of our farm groups coming behind a policy that’s forward thinking.

Mr. Adams: On the subject of trade, a lot of debate over TPA. How do you feel about it?

Sen. Klobuchar: Well, I want to see what the proposal is. I know that Senator Wyden is negotiating it. I voted, you know, that’s the Trade Promotion Authority, but when it comes to trade agreements, I voted for some, voted against others, and I really look at them on a case by case basis. The other thing for ag is just we’re constantly fighting those fights regardless of the trade agreements.

When, for instance, H1N1—I won’t call it what the…well, swine flu. But that was such a wrong name. And we see countries that are always trying to shut their borders down for different things. Sometimes they use things as an excuse, as we know. So I figure one of my roles as part of the President’s Export Council and on the Ag Committee and the Commerce Committee is to really push when those things happen so we keep these markets open.

Mr. Adams: Do you like what you see or hear about TPP so far?

Sen. Klobuchar: Well, again, I really listen to all the groups in our state. And a lot of the ag groups in the past, we still, you know, things still get negotiated, and they want to change, and the [pork] people like this, so I want to talk to everyone and then look at the agreement.

Mr. Adams: There’s a lot of discussion here certainly with Farm Bureau members, concerns about Waters of the U.S. How do you feel about—will Congress, you think, take action to stop the Waters of the U.S. rule?

Sen. Klobuchar: Well, I have concerns about that rule. I’ve expressed them to the EPA. I’ve been part of a letter. I voted today to…[pretty much] the budget is kind of sending a message to the EPA that they need to make some changes to that rule. I do want to see what the rule is. But I think that there’s been some major problems, not just from farmers, but also from our counties.

Mr. Adams: Senator, I know you have to go. Thank you very much. Appreciate it.

Sen. Klobuchar: Okay, thank you.

[End of recording.]