Rep. Ron Kind Introduces First Major Ag Bill Before 2007 Farm Bill; Provides Renewable Fuel Production Incentives, Economic Development Opportunities and Doubles Conservation Spending
Aiming to take federal farm policy in a new direction by enabling and rewarding more farmers and ranchers to help meet the nation's energy, health and conservation challenges, Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI) today introduced the first major agriculture bill introduced prior to next year's expiration of the current farm bill. The bipartisan legislation, called the "The Healthy Farms, Foods and Fuels Act of 2006," enjoys the support of 27 of Kind's colleagues from across the country and would provide consumers with greater access to healthy foods and double conservation spending to provide cleaner air, water and wildlife habitat, and help stabilize global warming, over the life of the next farm bill.
"The next farm bill should provide economic and conservatino incentives for all farmers, ranchers and small private forest landowners and should address our nation's energy, health and environmental needs for the 21st century," said Rep. Ron Kind, the bill's lead sponsor and a member of the House Resources Committee. "Farm and food policies should also build linkages between consumers, especially school children, and local farms that grow healthy foods in ways that protect and restore the environment. Americans need greater access to healthier foods that reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and that meet other health challenges."
Among other things, The Healthy Farms, Foods and Fuels Act, will:
* Increase from $200 million to $2 billion annual loan guarantees for renewable energy development on farms.
* Expand programs that provide local, healthy food choices to our school children and dramatically expand coupon programs that allow elderly and low income Americans to shop at farmer's markets.
* Double incentives to $2 billion a year for farmers and ranchers to protect drinking water supplies and make other environmental improvements.
* Provide funding to restore nearly 3 million acres of wetlands.
* Provide funding to protect 6 million acres of farm and ranch land from sprawl.
During the last Farm Bill reauthorization in 2002, Rep. Kind led the effort to shift some commodity payments to conservation and came up just 26 votes short of passing a bipartisan-supported amendment on the House floor. Kind's Healthy Farms bill, which is intended to outline desired reforms and build support for changes before consideration of the next Farm Bill, also includes an energy title and a healthy food choice title in addition to a focus on conservation.
Three former chiefs of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Norm Berg (1979-1982), Pearlie Reed, (1998 to 2002) and Paul Johnson (1993 to 1997) praised the bill because it will help farmers address the nation's energy crisis by boosting funding for renewable energy development on farms, ranches and forest lands.
"The Healthy Farms bill is the most ambitious conservation bill in American history," said Norm Berg, NRCS Chief from 1979 to 1982 and a long-time advisor to the Soil and Water Conservation Society who was raised on a family farm in Pine County, Minnesota. "This bill builds upon a long tradition of voluntary, incentive-based programs and provides a rare opportunity to expand and improve programs that help farmers when they help meet our environmental challenges."
" New Jersey is the most densely-populated state in the nation, so we see firsthand and up close the acute need for programs that assist our farmers and protect wildlife habitat and open space," said original cosponsor Rep. Jim Saxton (R-NJ), the third-ranking member of the House Resources Committee. whose district includes National Reserve lands, farmland, shoreline, barrier islands, bays and estuaries. "Our bill offers ways to set aside space for wildlife, promote conservation and help reduce America's dependence on foreign oil."
The lion's share of federal support for American farmers flows to less than 10% of the nation's agricultural producers. Farmers in 25 out of 435 congressional districts collected half of all farm spending during the last decade.
"Expanding conservation incentives will ensure that farm policy helps all farmers and ranchers regardless of how much land they farm, whether they grow traditional or specialty crops, or where they live," said Rep. Ed Case (D-HI), a member of the House Agriculture Committee. "All rural communities will share in the environmental benefits the programs in this bill make available. I especially welcome the assistance this bill provides in helping communities that are facing tremendous development pressures to protect prime agricultural land from urban encroachment, thereby maintaining a rural quality of life and open spaces."
Kind and the bill's cosponsors will continue building support for the Healthy Farms legislation with hopes of including these reforms in the 2007 reauthorization of the federal Farm Bill.
The Healthy Farms, Foods and Fuels Act of 2006, is sponsored by U.S. Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI) and has 28 cosponsors, including two members of the House Agriculture Committee, U.S. Reps. Ed Case (D-HI) and Ben Chandler (D-KY); the chairman of the House Science Committee, U.S. Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY); and the ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, U.S. Rep. John Dingell (D-MI). The other cosponsors are: U.S. Reps. Jim Saxton (R-NJ), Jim Kolbe (R-AZ), Mark Udall (D-CO), Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Adam Smith (D-WA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Michael Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Jeb Bradley (R-NH), James T. Walsh (R-NY), Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), Betty McCollum (D-MN), Rush Holt (D-NJ), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Sam Farr (D-CA), Rob Andrews (D-NJ), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Ellen Tauscher (D-CA), Tom Allen (D-ME), Charles Bass (R-NH), Jim Gerlach (R-PA), Sue Kelly (R-NY), James Oberstar (D-MI), Mike Michaud (D-ME) and Tim Bishop (D-NY).