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Senator Santorum Hosts Senate Agriculture Committee Field Hearing to Listen to the Concerns of Regional Farmers and Agribusiness in Anticipation ...

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Location: Harrisburg, PA

Senator Santorum Hosts Senate Agriculture Committee Field Hearing to Listen to the Concerns of Regional Farmers and Agribusiness in Anticipation of the Upcoming Senate Farm Bill

The hearing is the Northeast Regional hearing on the upcoming Farm Bill, one of only four scheduled nationally, to hear the opinions of constituents in the farming community prior to drafting a bill.

July 21, 2006
Harrisburg, PA - U.S. Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA), a member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, today hosted a hearing of the Committee at the Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg. Senator Santorum is the first Senator from Pennsylvania in over a century to serve on the Senate Agriculture Committee; he is also Chairman of the Subcommittee on Research, Nutrition, and General Legislation.

The hearing is the Northeast Regional hearing on the upcoming Farm Bill, one of only four scheduled nationally, to hear the opinions of constituents in the farming community prior to drafting a bill. Most programs governing farm policy in the existing law, the "Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002", will expire in September of 2007. The Senate Committee and its counterpart in the U.S. House of Representatives have begun the process to have the new legislation in place by October 2007.

"Currently the Farm Bill does not serve Pennsylvania farmers as well as it should. I have been meeting with farmers and interested parties from the agriculture community in our state, and they are seeking to benefit from national programs that enhance agricultural research, conservation and stewardship of the land; that encourage marketing and trade assistance; that foster clean water and clean air; that lead to new markets; and that provide increased risk management tools," said Senator Santorum. "My efforts for Pennsylvania in the upcoming Farm Bill are very clear. I want to focus on reducing any impediments that hinder the ability of Pennsylvania producers to grow, protect, or market their crops."

Senator Santorum believes that the 2007 Farm Bill must contain measures that allow producers to grow their agricultural business in Pennsylvania while continuing to be good stewards of our natural resources. In working to establish the framework of the 2007 Farm Bill, the Senator's goal is to foster and develop an agricultural policy for Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania's agricultural economy is based on a different crop/product mix than the majority of states that traditionally have influenced and written previous farm bills. The Senator is working to insure that states of the mid-Atlantic and northeast are well represented in the farm bill process this time.

"I would like to thank the United States Senate Agriculture Committee for providing Pennsylvania producers and agribusiness leaders the opportunity to share their experiences with federal agricultural policy and programming--giving the farm community of Pennsylvania a voice in the 2007 Farm Bill debate. The 2007 Farm Bill is a tremendous opportunity to help grow Pennsylvania agriculture and to address key needs such as risk management, specialty crop production, renewable energy, and market access," said Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture, Dennis Wolff.

The hearing was chaired by the Chairman of the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee, Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA). The Committee selected witnesses to represent the various agricultural commodities in the region and affiliated agribusinesses. Secretary Wolff from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and various representatives of Pennsylvania's diverse agriculture industry attended the hearing.

Please find attached a copy of Senator Santorum's opening statement as it was prepared for presentation.

Opening Statement
U.S. Senator Rick Santorum
Prepared for Delivery
Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry
Field Hearing on the 2007 Farm Bill
Harrisburg, PA
July 21, 2006

It is a great pleasure to welcome Chairman Chambliss to Pennsylvania today for the third in the series of committee regional hearings. The Chairman is to be commended for looking ahead to the farm bill next year by sounding out agricultural constituents around the country this year.

It is also appropriate that Pennsylvania host the Committee on behalf of Northeast agriculture because the state is representative of the diversity of agriculture in the region. As those in the audience know and as the witnesses this afternoon will attest, Pennsylvania offers tremendous variety in the wealth of its agricultural production. We produce what are known as "specialty crops," the fruits and vegetables so important in modern diets, as well as program crops such as dairy products, corn, wheat, soy, and small grains for which commodity titles in past farm bills have been written. Among specialty crops, Pennsylvania leads the nation in the production of mushrooms and is fourth in apple production. Among program crops, Pennsylvania is the fourth largest producer of dairy products. And, as we will hear today, the green industry also plays an important role in our agricultural economy.

It is this diversity that comes into play today as the Committee seeks to craft legislation reflective of all of US agriculture. Specialty crops nationwide now equal in value the value of the traditional program crops. That is an important milestone for Pennsylvania farmers because it underscores an inequity of previous farm bills. The commodity titles of those bills were written largely for the five major crops and dairy. Meanwhile, specialty crop states of the Northeast like Pennsylvania have been producing commodities every bit as important to the national diet and to the agricultural economy, but without the proportional benefit of government assistance.

This is not to suggest that Pennsylvania's specialty crop producers wish to become program crop producers. To the contrary, they do not. But they do seek to benefit from other national programs proportional to the value of their production. By that I mean programs that enhance agricultural research, conservation and stewardship of the land, programs that encourage marketing and trade assistance, programs that foster clean water and clean air, programs that lead to new markets, and programs that provide increased risk management tools. Escalating energy prices will play a role in the upcoming farm bill discussions. In an effort to moderate the nation's oil thirst, we will also look to write a bill that encourages and facilitates agricultural production of renewable energy.

All those have been available in some measure under previous farm bills. But they have not necessarily been available to the underserved areas of Northeast agriculture. A prime example is crop insurance. While the Agriculture Risk Protection Act of 2000, a bill I worked to shape, made crop insurance more applicable to our producers, we must continue to improve the program. Efforts to extend crop insurance programs to more acres in Pennsylvania and to a larger portion of the agricultural sector are more beneficial to the state's producers than controversial, and possibly WTO-illegal, countercyclical payments. But for insurance to be more useful, the crop insurance program must recognize the diversity of Northeastern agriculture. Policies must be written and made available accordingly.

This is why I say the policies of a modern farm bill do not lend themselves to a one-size-fits-all model. Today we ask these witnesses to give us a perspective of what works best for them. What shall we keep from the 2002 bill and what do we discard? What gets tweaked, and how do we allocate limited resources? In later hearings and meetings we will also hear from other farm bill stakeholders. Conservation groups, nutrition groups, trade groups, food manufacturer and retail groups and other stakeholder groups will also participate in this process. Thereafter, it is up to this committee to apply our informed judgment to the legislation we produce next year. As a Subcommittee Chairman and a member of Senate leadership, I anticipate being intimately involved as we sort through options and apply limited resources to adequately support the diverse agriculture of the Northeast.


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