WASHINGTON — Congress is approaching the end of this year's session and the farm bill is still being discussed, but Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., is confident it will be passed.

"Getting a final farm bill passed before the end of the year is so important. Minnesota farmers need the certainty this bill is going to provide. I'm optimistic we're going to get that done," Smith said.

One feature of the bill is a Community Connect Program that would help spread broadband access to rural and tribal communities, according to Smith.

"It will help to get funding to rural parts of the country to expand broadband. It's a really important step and we need to do a lot more to expand broadband," Smith said.

"Broadband is basically what connects anybody to the 21st century economy, education, healthcare and jobs. I'm really committed to working on this," she added.

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Another feature of the bill is trade assistance for farmers in large rural areas, as well as potentially opening up trade opportunities with more countries.

"It will help Minnesota farmers and producers open up new markets," Smith said. "I'm encouraged about provisions I worked on that would involve expanding trade opportunities into Cuba," she added.

Smith touched on the national conversation about trade discussions involving China.

"It is so important that we resolve our bigger trade disputes and we are able to move forward so markets our Minnesota agriculture really depends on can open up," Smith said. "I think we need to stand up to China and hold them accountable for what are unfair trade practices. We also need to buckle down and get to work to get these negotiations completed."

Smith remained confident that a farm bill will pass that features broadband access expansion; improved renewable energy programs; farmer and ranch assistance networks; and continuing of the federal sugar program.

"Agriculture is not so much a partisan issue as much as it is a regional issue," she said.