FOOD, CONSERVATION, AND ENERGY ACT OF 2008--CONFERENCE REPORT -- (Senate - May 15, 2008)
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Mr. CASEY. Mr. President, first of all, I thank Chairman Harkin for his great work and Ranking Member Chambliss for their leadership on this bill, a very difficult piece of legislation.
Chairman Harkin was so patient with me when I kept coming to talk about dairy farmers over and over again, as he listened and worked so hard to help so many of our farmers in his home State of Iowa and across the country. We are grateful for his help.
Also, I wish to mention Senator Chambliss's work and Senator Conrad, Senator Baucus, and so many others.
On my staff, I mentioned Caryn Long, who did great work, Kasey Gillette, who has done great work from the beginning of this process, and Alex Davis from my staff as well. All have done great work.
Let me do some quick highlights of the bill from the perspective of Pennsylvania but also I think from the perspective of our country overall.
With regard to dairy, dairy farmers who lead lives of struggle every day and have had to work under and survive under the most adverse circumstances one could imagine, this bill is historic in the context of what it will do to help our dairy farmers, 98 percent of whom in Pennsylvania are family farms. For the first time, we are considering the cost of production. I know the Presiding Officer has heard that phrase a lot in our deliberations. But for the first time, we are considering cost of production when we put forth programs and policies for dairy farmers.
This farm bill strengthens the safety net provided by the Milk Income Loss Contract, the so-called MILC Program, by adding a feed adjuster. I won't go into the details of that, but it is going to help enormously on the cost of production.
This is an idea I worked with many Members of the Senate on, of both parties. Senator Specter from my home State of Pennsylvania has been very concerned about our dairy farmers as well over many years. Senator Leahy worked hard on this issue in conference. I appreciate his work.
I am also very pleased that some of the amendments I worked on in committee are retained, such as the mandatory daily price reporting for dairy products, the feed and fuel cost being part of the so-called make allowances which are very important to balance between what happens to our farmers and what happens to processors.
Specialty crops were mentioned before. In our State, fruits, vegetables, and other speciality crops have never had the kind of focus this bill provides.
International food aid is part of this bill. I don't have time to go into that, but everyone knows that prices have enveloped the world. Almost one-fifth of the nations of the world are having problems that relate to food and security.
States such as Pennsylvania have been underserved by the Federal Crop Insurance Program for many years. This bill includes reforms that help producers in these States to increase the number of acres they have enrolled in the Crop Insurance Program.
The reform overall in this bill is very significant. There is $300 million in cuts to direct payments, reforms in the marketing loan program, it closes loopholes, reduces program abuses, on and on. These are changes that are made in this bill.
In terms of conservation, the Chesapeake Bay will be provided dollars to restore this tremendous natural resource.
The Conservation Farmland Protection Program is helped enormously.
I conclude with the nutrition program. This farm bill makes substantial investments in domestic food assistance programs and improves the Food Stamp Program for our families. Mr. President, 1 in 10 Pennsylvanians is currently receiving food stamps, and we have tremendous help for those families in this bill.
This is a good bill, and I urge my colleagues to adopt the conference report, and if the President vetoes it, we will override his veto.
I yield the floor.
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