- Associated Press - Thursday, December 3, 2015

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - U.S. senators from the Dakotas say a transportation bill Congress passed on Thursday restores $3 billion in cuts to crop insurance made in the budget agreement completed in October, and also helps some agricultural fuel haulers.

The Senate and House overwhelmingly approved the five-year, $305 billion bill, sending it to the White House for President Barack Obama’s signature.

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., said in a statement that crop insurance “is a lifeline for jobs and families across rural America,” and Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said it gives farmers “the certainty of knowing there is a safety net in place.”

Farm-state lawmakers and agricultural groups were angered by the budget deal, saying the cut to crop insurance would hurt farmers and possibly increase the need for emergency disaster aid. They also said it would undermine improvements in the 2014 farm bill to crop insurance, which costs more than $9 billion annually.

Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., said late last month that “producers need certainty from Washington, D.C. This includes the important crop insurance safety net.”

The Dakotas lead the nation in the production of wheat, sunflowers, oats, canola, honey, flaxseed, dry beans and bison.

The transportation bill also eases licensing requirements for people hauling smaller amounts of diesel fuel for agriculture-related uses, according to Sen. John Thune, R-S.D.

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