NEW DIRECTION FOR ENERGY INDEPENDENCE, NATIONAL SECURITY, AND CONSUMER PROTECTION ACT AND THE RENEWABLE ENERGY AND ENERGY CONSERVATION TAX ACT OF 2007--MOTION TO PROCEED -- (Senate - April 02, 2008)
Mr. SALAZAR. Mr. President, I come to the floor this morning to say thank you to COL Michael Barbero. I have been in the Senate now for only a little over 3 years. During that time, I have had the great honor and privilege of traveling to Iraq and to the Middle East with Colonel Barbero on two separate occasions. He is, first of all, a great soldier. He is someone who makes us all proud for his long service to the U.S. Army.
Part of his career in the U.S. Army has been to serve at Fort Carson, the home of the Mountain Division in the State of Colorado. As we traveled to the Middle East, we often would talk about Fort Carson and his experience there and the beauty of my State and the beauty of our mountains.
Colonel Barbero has been a great example of service. He has always put the interests and concerns of others ahead of himself. I think in that fashion he exemplifies the selflessness that comes from the very best of the best we have in the U.S. Armed Forces.
He has been a great example in the Senate as he has worked with all of us, with many of our colleagues, demonstrating the excellence and the commitment of the men and women who serve in our Armed Forces today.
I also want to voice my appreciation for the great sacrifices he has made because, as he has worked not only in the Senate for the last several years, but beyond that, his family has also sacrificed a great deal to our Nation. I think about his wife Vicki and his children Mary and Michael. Mary and Michael are still young people at home. I am sure often they missed their father when he would be gone on journeys into troubled areas of the world, sometimes for more than a week at a time.
So I come to the floor this morning simply to salute Colonel Barbero and to tell him thank you on behalf of the Senate for the great contribution he has made to our country and to the relationship between our legislative branch of Government--this Chamber, the Senate--and the U.S. Army.
Mr. President, I yield the floor.
I suggest the absence of a quorum.
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Mr. SALAZAR. Mr. President, I come to the floor of the Senate today to talk about the farm bill for the United States of America. As the Presiding Officer knows full well, this has been a major undertaking of this Congress for the last year. Under the leadership of Senator Harkin, this has been a major effort which actually preceded even this Congress, through the work of the last Congress, and for many of us over the last 3 years.
Our efforts to put together the best farm bill in the history of the United States came to a conclusion here on December 14, 2007, where, at about 3 o'clock that afternoon, in a vote in this Chamber, there were 79 Senators, 79 Senators who cast a ``yes'' vote on this farm bill. Now, not all Senators voted that day because there were seven Senators who were absent, some of them who were on the Presidential trail. When we talked to those Senators who were on the Presidential trail and those who were not here to vote on that day, we know there were 84 Senators who would have voted yes for that farm bill. That was on December 14, 2007.
December has passed, January has passed, February has passed, March has passed, April. Where are we? We are not, in my view, making the kind of progress to get us across the finish line that we have to make. So I come here today to remind us all that it is important that we finish the work on the farm bill. And, yes, I have made telephone calls to colleagues on the House side, asking them and urging them to move forward with the kind of urgency that many of us in this Chamber feel about this legislation.
I want to go back and reflect a little bit with my colleagues here on the importance of this bill. When I came to the Senate in January 2005, I gave my maiden speech on the floor of the Senate, and in that speech I spoke about the forgotten America. It was about those wide dispatches of land which have had troubling economic times, that even in those days of the 1990s when the economy was doing so well all across this country, there were those places in our Nation that somehow continued to wither on the vine.
In my own State of Colorado, a huge State with 64 counties, there are about 12 counties that I would say have done very well through the 1980s and the 1990s. Indeed, our population from 1980 to today has grown by some 2 million people so that we now have about 5 million people. But there are wide spaces in the State of Colorado, in approximately 50 of those 64 counties, where the population has been in decline, where Main Streets have been boarded up, where the economic struggle of people is particularly painful, whether it is the area of health care or in the area of education or in any of those facets of life that affect us all.
So our opportunity to shine the spotlight on rural America really comes about once every 5 years when we get to renew the farm bill and reset the policy of the Nation with respect to agriculture and rural America. This has been our time. This has been our time to do something to address this issue of what I have called the forgotten America.
When you look at this nonmetro population change by county from 2000 to 2005, you will see the great swaths of America that are outlined here in red where you see county after county, mostly in rural America, that continues to lose population. So I show this map here because I think it is important for us, to remind us that as we work here today on the housing bill, which is an important and urgent piece of legislation for the United States and for the people of America who are feeling the pain today because of the housing crisis, it is also important to remind people that there is another pain being felt across America, and that is a pain in rural America.
This next poster is a typical poster of a Main Street in the State of Colorado. This is a poster from Mariano, CO, a picture of Mariano, CO, which shows what is happening in many of our communities. I am sure that in the Presiding Officer's State of Pennsylvania, in the rural parts of Pennsylvania, we can probably find communities that look very much like this on Main Street. Perhaps even in the great State of Rhode Island there may be some towns that actually look like this. We have half of Main Street essentially boarded up. You have a few pickup trucks. That is kind of how it looks.
This is another example of much of what is happening. This is from Brush, CO, again out on the eastern plains, ``for sale'' signs, Main Street for sale. Rural America--rural America has a whole bunch of problems.
So when we look at the 2007--now 2008--farm bill, which will set the policy of the United States of America with respect to our farming policy for the next 5 years, I think it is important to see it as a great opportunity for us to come together, to create new opportunities for the United States of America, to move us forward with energy independence and fuel security for our country and also to make sure we have food security for America.
There are many opportunities that are set forth in this farm bill which we ought not to forget. One of those opportunities is set forth in title IX of the farm bill where, for the first time, for the first time we have included in there a robust package that will help us grow our way to energy independence. We are going to do that through harnessing the power of the wind, the power of the Sun. We are going to do it through harnessing the power of biomass, where we can create a new biofuels industry that will enhance our national security, get rid of our dependance on foreign oil, and make sure we start addressing the environmental security concerns of the people of America. That is an important provision of this legislation.
This is a picture of one of the wind farms in my State of Colorado, where wind has become a significant part of our renewable energy portfolio for our State. I am sometimes in awe of what my State of Colorado has done in a very few short years.
In 2004, there was virtually no wind generation within the State of Colorado. We were not producing any electricity or very little electricity for the consumption of the people of my State and surrounding States.
In 2004, we started this renewable energy initiative. In a very short 3 years, we now have accomplished 1,000 megawatts of power being generated by the wind farms throughout the State of Colorado--1,000 megawatts of power. That is an incredible amount of power when you consider it. That is about the equivalent of what we would be generating from three coal-fired powerplants. We have begun to do that in my State. We are starting it, actually, in other States all across this great Nation where the wind blows, whether it is in North Dakota or New Mexico or Texas.
We have a huge initiative going forward now with respect to grasping the reality of renewable energy to harness the power of the wind. It is not only major wind farms owned by companies or by utilities. In the farm bill, we said: We take the power of the wind and we ought to be able to make it available to homeowners, to farmers, and small businesses by including in title IX a small tax credit of $4,000 for small wind turbines that produce less than 50 kW. That is a very important part of the farm bill.
In addition to harnessing the power of the wind, what we do in the farm bill is also to harness the power of our biomasses. Yes, we have done that in the past. In the 2005 Energy Policy Act, we moved forward with quintupling the renewable fuels standard. In the 2007 Energy bill, which we passed out of the Senate, we pushed that agenda significantly higher in the 2007 farm bill.
This is an ethanol plant in my State of Colorado. Three years ago, there were no ethanol plants in my State. Biofuels had bypassed the State of Colorado. Because of the work of this Chamber, today there are four ethanol plants which are up and functioning, producing hundreds of millions of gallons of ethanol within my State. Ground has been broken on two additional ones. But even more importantly, what we have done in the Congress is we recognized that we will move beyond these ethanol plants into a whole new future of cellulosic ethanol that is required under the renewable fuels standard of the Energy Policy Act. In the farm bill, in title IX, which we have included in the farm bill itself, we have said that this next step on cellulosic ethanol has to be taken. We include major incentives for a cellulosic ethanol future for the country.
Let me say it is more than about rural America and rural development and energy, it also is about conservation of our lands across this great country. It has been said many times that farmers and ranchers are the best stewards of our land. Perhaps they are the best environmentalists we know. That comes from the reason that at the end of the day, if you do not take care of your land and you do not take care of your water, you are not going to have the wherewithal to be able to provide for yourself and your family a living in the following years. So farmers and ranchers are conservationists, and that is why in the farm bill its conservation title has a very robust movement forward in a number of our conservation programs which are so important for our country.
Here is a picture, again taken at the foothills of the great Rocky Mountains in the State of Colorado, of a project which has been founded through the Wetlands Reserve Program. Those kinds of programs are a very fundamental component of this farm bill.
But it goes beyond conservation. We also, in this farm bill, need to constantly keep reminding people that 67.7, almost 68 percent of all of the money this Senate directed to be spent on the farm bill--almost 68 percent, more than two-thirds--is supposed to be going and will go to the nutrition programs. It will provide money for food stamps, it will provide money for the kinds of fruits and vegetables programs we want in our schools. It is a very important part of the farm bill. Sometimes people say: Well, the farm bill is all about rural America, the forgotten America that I was talking about. That is not true because most of the nutritional dollars that are spent under the farm bill actually go to benefit the urban cousins we have throughout this country. So let's not forget the importance of food stamps, the importance of the nutritional programs that are included in the schools.
Finally, from time to time there is a disaster that strikes rural America. This is the disaster which struck the eastern part of my State and the western part of Kansas just last year, with a snow blizzard that ended up killing tens of thousands of cattle out on the eastern plains.
We have not had a disaster program that has been an effective disaster program for rural America. We were able to come up with a good disaster program that was included in the farm bill here in the Senate. I am hopeful that disaster program is something we can come around on in a bipartisan fashion to support and get across the finish line.
Let me conclude by saying to my colleagues we cannot afford to wait. Not passing a 2007 farm bill as a Congress is not an option. We cannot fail at this. For my time as attorney general of my State and a Member of the Senate, I have always had in my office a sign that says: No farms, no food. It is important for the people of this country to understand we have the least expensive, most secure food supply of anyone in the world today. If my friend, KENT CONRAD, were here and had one of his great charts, one of the things he would point to is we pay a lot less for food today than we did during the days of the Great Depression in the 1940s and 1950s. Only about 10 percent of our disposable income actually is spent on the food we consume as opposed to 20 and 30 and 50 percent in other countries. So it is important for us to maintain that food security for the American people.
I hope the House of Representatives and those in the House of Representatives who care about the food and energy security of our country will help us to get to conclusion on this very important legislation.
I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.