MOTION TO INSTRUCT CONFEREES ON H.R. 2419, FOOD AND ENERGY SECURITY ACT OF 2007 -- (House of Representatives - May 01, 2008)
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Mr. KIND. I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, this is a very simple motion. I understand we are in the waning, perhaps minutes of conclusion of the farm bill. But, nevertheless, I think it's important that we get the policies right. We do need a farm bill. We need it as soon as possible. It's planting season back home. Our farmers need some predictability. They need to know what rules they are being to be operating under, one way or another. But we need a good farm bill, not a bad farm bill; one that tries to get the policy right, not the wrong way.
I still believe there's more room for reform under the commodity programs in light of record high commodity prices. It's tough to justify to the average taxpayer that what is still being considered under the current farm bill is close to $25 billion of direct payments to go out over the next 5 years, bearing no relationship to price or production. It's not a safety net. These are entitlement funding, automatic payments that go to large producers, primarily merely due to their existence and not because of market.
But there's another important feature of this farm bill and that is the conservation title. This farm bill offers this Nation the greatest public investment in private land ownership in regards to anything else we do around here. For a very long time, we have had important land and water conservation programs set up on a voluntary and incentive basis to help our producers be good stewards of the land; good manure management practices so they are not running off and polluting our rivers and streams and lakes and tributaries, making sure we have got buffer strips in place, making sure we have got the ability to absorb more CO
2 from the atmosphere so we don't lose ground on the global warming battle that we are confronting.
This is something that also benefits the American farmer, family farmers in every region. But it also benefits the community at large through enhanced water quality programs, through habitat protection, and wildlife, which is also vital to our own local and regional economies. Yet what is being considered right now in the conference is a dramatic reduction in the level of funding that came out of the House.
The House had an historic passage of conservation funding last year, calling for another over $5 billion in these conservation programs. This, I think, in part, is to address the backlog of demand because today, under current funding, close to two out of every three farmers applying for conversation funding assistance are turned because of the inadequacy of funds. So the demand is there.
But what makes these programs especially attractive is their so-called ``green box payments.'' They are nonmarket, nontrade-distorting, still a way to help our family farmers manage their own land, but in a way that doesn't distort the marketplace. What's being considered now is a dramatic reduction in the level of funding that came out of the House originally.
Our motion to instruct today would merely ask the conferees to try to get back to that House level of funding rather than going even below where the Senate took it. The Senate was proposing a $4.2 billion increase. We were over $5 billion. It's my understanding, and I haven't been privy to the ongoing negotiations, but they are talking about just a $4 billion increase under conservation, substantially below where the House went.
More specifically, this motion would instruct conferees to maintain the House funding for the Environmental Quality Incentive Program. That is the main program that helps with manure management projects throughout the Nation, especially beneficial to large animal feedlots that have to control that and prevent the spillage into the environment.
It would also maintain the allotment for the Grassland Reserve Program. There is more pressure being put on these highly sensitive and highly erodible lands because of the increase in commodity prices. It would also maintain House funding for the Wetlands Reserve Program. That, of course, is a great filter that exists throughout our communities to enhance quality water supplies but also crucial to water fowl populations in North America.
It would also accept the Senate Sod Saver Provision so that the Federal Government doesn't incentivize the conversion of sensitive virgin prairie land back into crop production. Again, given the pressure that exists with these historically high commodity prices, it's a real concern that more of this virgin prairie land that has been vital for conservation efforts, especially in the Great Plains, are going to be brought back into production with the consequent adverse environmental and conservation effects that would result.
So that is merely what this motion to instruct would do; get back to what the House passed last year under conservation, give the farmers throughout the country the tools they need to be good stewards of the land, and do it in a nonmarket, nontrade-distorting fashion, especially in the tremendous increase in commodity prices today and the pressure that producers are under to bring the land that has been conserved for many years back into production and resulting with a lot more sediment and nutrient runoffs that will be a consequence of that action.
With that, I reserve the balance of my time.
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