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Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 - Veto - Continued

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


FOOD, CONSERVATION, AND ENERGY ACT OF 2008--VETO--Continued -- (Senate - May 22, 2008)

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Mr. CHAMBLISS. Mr. President, as my chairman said, I think everything that could be said about this bill has been said. We were on the floor off and on for a couple of weeks, and we, at the end of the day, after a lot of controversial votes and whatnot, achieved a milestone in the Senate for farm bills; that is, we had 81 Members of the Senate who voted in favor of this bill. It is not a perfect bill, but it is a very good bill for any number of reasons.

In the commodity title, we are spending significantly less money on our so-called subsidy program. I refer to it as an investment by the Government in agriculture, because that is exactly what it is. We are not guaranteeing farmers any kind of income. In fact, under the way this bill is written, the prices being what they are at the farm gate today, very little, if any, in the way of payments is going to be going from Washington to farmers. That is the way it ought to be. That is the way farmers want it. They would rather get the stream of income from the marketplace. Certainly that is the way we, as policymakers, want to see it happen. That is what will happen.

We have made significant changes in the payment limit provision. We have AGIs in this bill now that have never been thought of before. Nobody ever thought we would achieve the number we did from an AGI standpoint. But it is real reform. It is going to work.

We are also eliminating the three-entity rule. Again, if you had told anybody in this distinguished Senate 3 years ago that we would be eliminating the three-entity rule in the farm bill, you would have gotten blank stares. Nobody ever thought that would happen, but we were willing to make those kinds of reforms.

In the conservation title, we have expanded a number of programs, but we have done something significant in the conservation title. For the first time ever we are applying payment limits to the conservation title. So the so-called millionaires that have been beneficiaries of the conservation title in years past are no longer going to be able to participate in that program, and they should not.

I am pretty excited about the energy title. In my part of the world, we do not grow corn with the abundance that the Midwest part of the country does. Therefore, we are a little bit handicapped when it comes to the construction and manufacturing facilities to produce ethanol. Because out of the 201 ethanol-producing facilities that are in place or will be in place over the next 18 months, all but 2 of them are resourced with corn. The two that are not resourced with corn happen to be resourced with cellulosic products. One of them is in my State.

I am very proud of the fact that we are going to have a facility in Soperton, GA, that is under construction right now by Range Fuels that is going to produce ethanol from pine trees, because I will match our ability to grow a pine tree with anybody else in the country. It is a resource that is not going to increase the cost of food, which is an unintended consequence of the use of corn for the production of ethanol.

The title I am just as excited about is the nutrition title. We are seeing an expansion of the nutrition title again like none of us ever imagined we would see in this farm bill. Most people across America think because of what they read in the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal and the Atlanta Constitution that farm bills are strictly payments to farmers when, in fact, about 11 percent of the outlays in this bill go to the commodity title which goes to farmers.

About 73 percent of the outlays in this bill go to the nutrition title to provide for the food stamp program, to provide for the school lunch program, to provide for payments to our food banks. All of those programs are designed to feed people who are hungry and needy in this country. We are the most abundant country in the world from an agricultural standpoint. We have the ability to feed people inside of America as well as outside of America, and we have an obligation to do that. In the nutrition title, that is exactly what we are going to be doing.

This is a bill that has been talked about an awful lot. And, again, it is not a perfect bill. There are some provisions in it that I wish were not in it. But it is a massive piece of legislation, as is every farm bill, and we have to reach compromise to be able to get a bill of that massive size passed by the House and by the Senate.

We did accommodate the White House. We negotiated very diligently with the White House. We moved a long way in the direction of the White House. They did not get everything they wanted, and we did not get everything we wanted. At the end of the day, we passed it with a big vote. And the White House, unfortunately, decided we did not move far enough for them. Obviously that caused the President's veto to the bill. At the end of the day here today, we are going to have at least 14 of the 15 titles hopefully passed into law.

I do not know what happened to the one title. They tell us that a clerk on the House side failed to include 33 pages of title III in the bill that was transmitted from the House to the White House.

Those things happen. Now it is up to us to figure out the best way to efficiently and in an expeditious manner fix the problem and move ahead to allow farmers and ranchers to have some certainty as they move into the planting season of 2008.

I reserve the remainder of my time.

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hat we are going to have to take up the full bill again as the House did and passed it with a big vote. Over the next several days, I hope maybe these waters will smooth out, and we can move ahead with the concurrence of the White House so farmers and ranchers will have some dependability on what type of programs we are going to have out there for them.

Let me say again to my chairman, Senator Harkin, it has been a pleasure to work with him and Senator Conrad, who has been such a great ally in this process. It was great leadership to get us to where we are now. Thank you on behalf of all farmers across America. Senator Baucus and Senator Grassley have been so valuable in our process. We named all the staff the other day, but we wouldn't be where we are without them.

Mr. President, I thank you and everybody have a safe holiday.

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