FARM, NUTRITION, AND BIOENERGY ACT OF 2007 -- (Senate - December 10, 2007)
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Ms. STABENOW. Mr. President, I appreciate the Senator temporarily taking the chair for me at this time so I can make a few brief comments on the farm bill. I thank everyone who has been involved in getting us to this point. It has been challenging, but we have a product, as you know, that came out of committee unanimously.
I thank Senator Harkin and Senator Chambliss for their leadership in bringing us to this point. I also thank Senator Conrad for his budget expertise that helped get us to this point, and so many other people who have worked very hard to create a product that we all can be very proud of.
We do not only support traditional agriculture, which is very important--people in my State think of automobiles, particularly as we are talking about the energy debate now--but our second largest industry is agriculture. So this is a very important bill from the standpoint of the economy of Michigan.
We have traditional agricultural programs that are supported in this legislation which I am very pleased about. But we also do something very important. We take a step toward the future in this bill in a number of ways.
Also very important to me and Michigan, and I appreciate my colleagues supporting the effort, is to have half of the crops grown by farmers in the United States, fruit and vegetable growers, called specialty crops, included in a very real way for the first time in this farm bill. That is historic. We are talking about many family farmers, folks who are growing the apples and asparagus and the cherries and the blueberries and the oranges and all of the foods we want our children to eat.
We tell our children: Eat your fruits and vegetables. Well, this farm bill for the first time makes a permanent place, a permanent home for those growers. I appreciate my colleagues who have worked with me in order to be able to make that happen.
We also take a turn to the future with alternative energy. I thank the distinguished Presiding Officer from Colorado for his passion around the issue of alternative energy as well as my distinguished colleague from South Dakota for his interest and leadership around these issues as well. We all join together in understanding that we want to be able to say: Buy your fuel from middle America instead of the Middle East. That would create energy independence. It would be great for our farmers. It is great for new technologies.
We also are very proud to be making the automobiles that will use that new fuel. So this farm bill is an energy and security bill, an effort in a very major way to turn us to that future through various kinds of incentives and supports and research and cellulosic ethanol that we know is the future.
We not only want to make ethanol from corn--and we grow a lot of corn in Michigan, but we also grow a lot of sugar beets, we have a lot of wood byproducts, we have a lot of switchgrass available and other things that we can use for the technology to be developed and supported through this farm bill to be able to create energy.
That is important. This is about the future. I believe part of reform, when we talk about reforming the farm bill, we talk about more focus on our fruit and vegetable growers, more focus on energy crops, more focus on nutrition, and the importance of being able to support our farmers markets and community gardens, the ability for people to have access to nutritious food in the United States.
This is also an important bill for conservation. Again, I know our Presiding Officer cares very much about this issue. Our chairman has been a passionate leader, focusing on conservation. This bill does it in a very real way. I thank the chairman as well for including language that addresses Great Lakes water erosion, soil runoff into the Great Lakes, into our water systems, a very critical issue. I appreciate him including language from a broad strategic effort that was put together with all eight States and our friends in Canada and the administration and others to put together a strategy to protect our Great Lakes waters. Part of that is reflected as it relates to our conservation portion of the farm bill. So there are numerous ways in which this particular legislation, as comprehensive as it is, makes sense.
I would also be remiss if I did not mention rural development. I do not think there is a town in northern Michigan, southern Michigan, in the Upper Peninsula, that has not benefitted by some help with water and sewer or housing development or small business loans or the ability to buy a needed fire truck, to be able to meet rural needs.
I am very proud of the fact that we have expanded and included the broadband access. We know, just as the telephone system was made more valuable by making sure the farmer at the end of the road was able to be connected by telephone, we need to be sure that every person in every corner of the country is connected and has access to broadband. This legislation does that as well.
There are numerous provisions in this legislation that relate to supporting and developing rural America, supporting new technologies, supporting the communities, protecting our natural resources and conservation, focusing on alternative fuels and energy independence at a time when we have never needed it more; also the wonderful partnership that we have established between our nutrition programs, schools, seniors, community programs, and our fruit and vegetable growers who are growing that nutritious food that we want to make sure gets to our families.
I hope we will come together. It is very positive that we finally broke through the logjam, and we are together here on the floor moving forward this bipartisan bill. It is my hope we will be able to move through these amendments and do it in a way that allows us to complete this bill this week and have the Senate's vision for the future of rural America and energy and nutrition, conservation, our support for traditional agriculture, have all of those visions out there together before we leave for the end of the year. This is important what we have done together. It is an important piece of work. I am pleased that we are now moving to that next step. I am hopeful that working together, we will be able to get that done this week.
I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.
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