DONNELLY JOINS HOUSE IN PASSING FARM BILL
Makes Substantial Commitments to Renewable Energy and Conservation; Strengthens Aid to Rural Communities and Family Farmers
Washington, D.C. - On Friday, Congressman Joe Donnelly, a member of the House Agriculture Committee, joined his colleagues in passing H.R. 2149, The Farm, Nutrition and Bioenergy Act of 2007, commonly referred to as the Farm Bill. The Farm Bill passed the House by a vote of 231-191.
"When I was elected to Congress last November, one of my first objectives was to secure a seat on the Agriculture Committee because it was important to me that Indiana have a voice in drafting this legislation," Donnelly said. "I have met with farmers from across the Second District and worked with colleagues from both sides of the aisle to write a bill that would meet the needs of Indiana's farmers, stimulate rural economies, and set a path to secure America's energy future. After receiving unanimous approval from the committee, I'm pleased that it passed the House with the support of many of my colleagues."
The Farm Bill, which comes up for revision by the Congress every five years, reauthorizes Agriculture Department programs regarding federal farm support, commodity price support, food assistance, agricultural trade, marketing, rural development, conservation, and various other programs and policies.
The Farm Bill that was approved by the House includes a provision to create a Planning Flexibility Pilot Program that was added at the request of Congressmen Donnelly. The pilot program, which is limited to 10,000 acres in Indiana, would allow farmers to plant tomatoes on base acresthose acres which are eligible for crop subsidieswithout penalty. In order to participate in the program, growers must have a contract to grow tomatoes for processing and must grow tomatoes as part of a crop rotation designed to achieve pest and disease management benefits.
"I heard from numerous farmers in our districts that there is a genuine need for this greater planting flexibility," Donnelly said. "I'm pleased that this provision was approved by the House and I will continue to work for the same result as the Senate considers their version of the Farm Bill."
The Commodity Title of the Farm Bill passed by the House extends the successful provisions of the 2002 Farm Bill with minor changes. These changes were made to improve equity among commodities and reflect changes in the marketplace for these commodities. For example, the bill increases target prices for soybeans from $5.80 to $6.10 a bushel, which increases producers' opportunity to receive counter-cyclical payments when prices are low. Corn prices remain at 2002 levels.
"The Farm Bill improves commodity programs by making them more diverse and fairer to farmers all across the country, Donnelly said. "The bill provides farmers in commodity programs with a choice between traditional price protection and new market-oriented revenue coverage payments to ensure protection against significant crop losses for the first time, as recommended by the President."
This Farm Bill has a strong Energy Title with loan guarantees to help finance the cost of developing and constructing biorefineries and biofuel production plants. The measure boosts renewable energy programs by 600 percent, providing $2 billion in loan guarantees for the development of refineries that process renewable fuels, a key step toward bringing more renewable fuels to market in America and $1.5 billion for production incentives for ethanol and biodiesel made from agricultural, forest, and waste plant materials.
"As we continue to develop a strategy to reduce America's dependence on foreign oil, I have worked hard to make sure that Hoosier farmers are part of the solution," Donnelly said. "This Farm Bill gets us closer to achieving that goal by expanding renewable fuel production."
Through the Conservation Title, the bill adds $4.3 billion more for conservation programs to preserve farmland, improve water quality, and enhance soil conservation, air quality and wildlife habitat on working lands.
"The Farm Bill makes conservation a cornerstone of agriculture for all producers," Donnelly said. "The bill improves funding and access to conservation programs that take environmentally sensitive land out of farming and encourage environmentally friendly practices on working farmland."
The Farm Bill also includes key provisions that invest in rural communities, including economic development programs and access to broadband telecommunication services to bridge the digital divide in rural, underserved areas. It also addresses the health care, emergency, and first responder needs of rural areas, as well as creating new markets and rebuilding rural infrastructure.
"The rural development aspects of the Farm Bill demonstrate the broad scope of this bill," Donnelly said. "It's important that our farmers get what they need but it's also important that the communities that sustain farms have access to conveniences enjoyed by urban areas. The Rural Development Title has the potential to stimulate rural economies and strengthens rural communities."
Now that the Farm Bill has been approved by the House, the Senate must pass its own version. The two bodies will then need to meet to negotiate a final version in a conference committee. That final version will then be sent back to each legislative body and if approved, the bill will be sent to the president for his signature.
"Today is an exciting time to be involved in agriculture, and I believe that this Farm Bill will strengthen rural America while ensuring that all Americans continue enjoy a safe, nutritious food supply," Donnelly said. "The 2007 Farm Bill will provide farmers with the freedom and support they need to compete successfully in providing food, fiber and fuel for all Americans in a fiscally responsible way."