Yesterday, the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry passed the Food and Energy Security Act of 2007 (Farm Bill). U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham voted in support of the legislation.
Among the major features of the legislation:
* Extends commodity programs for producers including direct payments to farmers;
* Reauthorizes conservation, agriculture research, rural development, energy, and food assistance programs;
* Establishes incentives for farmers to invest in the production and conversion of renewable biomass, such as cellulosic ethanol, to energy;
* Establishes a Rural Collaborative Investment program that would bolster economic development in rural regions by providing grants to projects created by local government, business and nonprofit organizations;
Reauthorizes key programs such as the Food Stamp Program, the Emergency Food Assistance Program, the Fruit and Vegetable Program, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, the Wetlands Reserve Program, foreign food assistance programs, and rural programs such as community facility funding, broadband service, rural/waste water grants.
"Agriculture is the second largest industry in South Carolina and I know how important these programs are to our state," said Graham. "I am pleased the committee approved a farm bill that maintains current farm programs and includes increased funding for nutrition and specialty crops programs. We also adopted incentives for the conversion of cellosic biomass to energy and recognize the importance of conservation and rural development in our country."
Graham noted there are provisions in the bill that cause concern such as an optional farm program that makes payments to producers based on state crop revenue targets, and a provision that reduces payment limits over the life of the bill.
"This farm bill is not perfect and everyone on the Committee would admit that there are some things in this bill that they don't like," said Graham. "However, I am proud that a compromise was found that nearly all my colleagues could agree is a good bill."
Graham worked to include additional grant programs that could benefit research and training being conducted in South Carolina. These include expanding research conducted on forage-fed beef systems and a New Era Rural Technology Program that would provide grant money to community colleges for training an agriculture workforce in bio-energy, and the pulp and paper industry. The legislation also includes a Graham-backed provision that would provide economic adjustment assistance in the amount of 4 cents per pound to textile manufacturers for the modernization of equipment and operations.
The House version of the 2007 farm bill passed in July. Action on the Senate floor will begin in the coming weeks.