Pryor Applauds Senate Passage of Farm Bill
Farm Bill Contains Pryor Amendments to Benefit Farm-Based Energy, Agriculture Research
Senator Mark Pryor said the Farm Bill passed by the Senate today lays an important foundation for a stable, safe and affordable food supply in the United States. The legislation invests in renewable, farm-based energy; emphasizes conservation; boosts nutrition programs and advances rural development programs. The Senator said the safety net for commodity programs remains despite heavy objections, although new restrictions will pose challenges for some farmers. He added that two of his amendments were accepted by the Senate, including a measure to spur investment in cellulosic biofuel and improve quality control standards for university and private sector research.
"Agriculture and rural development are intertwined, which is why the policies spelled out in the Farm bill are so important to our state," Pryor said. "Senator Lincoln fought hard to squeeze out the very best deal for our farmers and producers given today's economy. I'm proud of her work, and I'm pleased about the commitment we have made in this legislation to heavily invest in farm-based energy, conservation, economic development and nutrition programs that will benefit families and the economies of rural America."
He added, "President Bush is wrong to threaten a veto on this legislation. Unless we want to be in the same situation with our food supply that we are with foreign oil, there must be safety net programs in place to protect our farmers from going under."
Pryor said rural Arkansas can help meet our nation's energy challenges, but farmers first need the resources and infrastructure in place before switching markets. During debate of the legislation, Pryor's amendment was accepted to require the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to conduct a nationwide assessment of growth potential for cellulosic feedstock. He said the state has tremendous potential for cellulosic ethanol -- where farmers could turn switch grass, cornstarch, miscanthus and woodchips into the next generation of biofuel -- but it needs companies willing to invest and commercialize the fuel.
"The energy potential that exists in our fields and forests must be met with investment and infrastructure. My provision is meant to marry the two," Pryor said. "A nationwide assessment of cellulosic feedstock will identify Arkansas's high potential and drive investors to our state in order to accelerate the commercialization phase and meet our nation's growing energy challenges."
Pryor said he is also pleased his provision to improve quality control standards for collaborative university research remains in the final legislation. Specifically, the provision will improve standards for quality control and management in research between the private sector and universities in order to prevent another major market disruption, similar to what occurred in the U.S. rice industry in 2006. The unauthorized and unapproved release of a strain of rice entered the U.S. rice crop and disrupted rice exports to Europe, Asia and the Middle East and reduced the value of the long grain rice crop by almost $200 million. Pryor said the USDA spent a year investigating the cause and then offered several recommendations to prevent related problems in the future. His amendment will require the USDA to turn those recommendations into regulations, including policies to enhance the quality of records, retain representative samples, maintain identity and control in the event of an unauthorized release, develop corrective actions and protocols for conducting molecular forensics, provide clarity in contractual agreements, develop standards for quality management systems and use electronic permits to store documents.
"Some of the most beneficial research in agriculture has been a direct result of partnerships between universities and the private sector. Implementing the USDA's recommendations will help protect the integrity of this research and prevent potential disturbances in the global marketplace," Pryor said.