Hoeven Leads Open Forum with Bismarck-Mandan Chamber, Local Leaders

Senator Discusses Farm Bill, Energy, Water Development, Student Loans, Infrastructure

BISMARCK, N.D. – Senator John Hoeven today led an open forum in Bismarck with business leaders and state and local officials to provide an update on his work in Washington and to invite discussion from local community leaders on their ideas and priorities. Hoeven focused his update on his efforts to pass a five-year farm bill and two pieces of energy legislation he recently introduced, as well as housing and infrastructure legislation that is benefiting North Dakota. The event was hosted by the Bismarck-Mandan Chamber’s Government Affairs Committee.

“We are working to pass a strong farm bill for producers and consumers, as well as pro-growth legislation for the energy industry that will grow our economy, provide jobs for American workers and generate revenue,” Hoeven said. “Along with a sustained effort to control spending, that will help us to reduce our debt and deficit. At the same time, we need to encourage investments in housing, transportation and other infrastructure necessary to support a growing economy. By making pro-growth legal, tax and regulatory reforms, we can unleash the imagination and innovation of the American people.”

Farm Bill

As a member of the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee, Senator Hoeven has worked in the past two sessions to pass a long-term farm bill. The 2013 Senate farm bill, which passed in June, includes enhanced crop insurance provisions, continues the sugar program, and provides $24 million in savings to help reduce the debt and deficit. This month, Hoeven was named to the conference committee responsible for negotiating an agreement between the Senate and House on legislation. Hoeven said he will work to decouple conservation compliance from the crop insurance program and to simplify and clarify rules for the Prevented Plant program.

Domestic Energy and Jobs Act (DEJA)

DEJA is a wide-ranging package of 12 diverse energy bills that addresses both traditional and renewable development, designed to streamline and simplify regulations, boost domestic energy supplies, build American energy infrastructure and safeguard America’s supply of critical minerals used in modern high-tech manufactured products such as cell phones and computers. It establishes an American energy development plan, an all-of-the-above energy program for federal lands by reviewing the nation’s energy needs and goals for federal land energy production.

Empower States Act

The Empower States Act would ensure that states retain the right to manage hydraulic fracturing and gives them the ability to respond first to any violation. It includes provisions to prevent loss of jobs or harm to consumers and the economy, to prevent arbitrary regulation from federal authorities and to ensure good environmental stewardship. This legislation recognizes that individual states are the first and best responders to oil and gas issues because they know their land and have a stake in protecting their environment.

Water Resources Development Act (WRDA)

Hoeven said the WRDA bill, which passed the Senate in May, will benefit western North Dakota as well as the Red River Valley. The measure includes the States’ Water Rights Act, an amendment authored by the senator that makes it unlawful for the Army Corps of Engineers to charge a surplus water fee for access to Missouri River reservoirs.

The senator’s measure fixes in law that charging fees for “surplus water” would violate a state’s right to the waters that naturally flow through its boundaries as recognized by the federal government. Hoeven said bill is important for everyone living, working and doing business in western North Dakota - residents, farmers, ranchers, businesses, municipalities and industrial users. The senator said he believes the provision will be retained in the House, which now needs to pass the bill as well.

Student Loan Certainty Act

Hoeven also discussed the long-term, bipartisan student loan legislation he cosponsored that passed the Senate last month. The new legislation provides a long-term solution for the program and incorporates caps to ensure that loan rates remain at affordable levels. The measure will reduce loan rates for 100 percent of borrowers.

The Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act will tie all federal student loan rates to the 10-year U.S. Treasury note rate to reflect current market and employment conditions. Specifically, the bill will take the rate for 10-year Treasury notes, which this year would be 1.81 percent, and add fixed percentages to undergraduate, graduate and PLUS loans. Rates will be locked in for the life of the loan. For example, borrowers this academic year will be able to lock in the following loan rates:

  • Undergraduate: 1.8% + 2.05% = 3.86%
  • Graduate: 1.8% + 3.6% = 5.4%
  • PLUS: 1.8% + 4.6% = 6.4%

Infrastructure and Housing

Hoeven commended Chamber members for their work to build a dynamic economy in the Bismarck-Mandan region, noting that from 2009 to 2012, Bismarck housing permits increased from 237 to 650 and Mandan permits increased from 84 to 349.

As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Hoeven has worked to include funding for housing and infrastructure programs that meet North Dakota priorities in the annual appropriations bills. The senator was also a member of the joint Senate-House conference committee that crafted the last federal transportation bill, which provided record funding for North Dakota when combined with Emergency Road Funding. The legislation funded transportation projects through 2014, providing the state with an additional year of funding and greater certainty to plan long-term projects.