FOOD, CONSERVATION, AND ENERGY ACT OF 2008 -- (Senate - June 05, 2008)
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Mr. CHAMBLISS. Mr. President, here we are, as Senator Harkin said, back again for one more vote on the farm bill. As I told my colleagues at lunch today, I wish I thought this would be the last one. We may have one more, if the President vetoes this bill. We may be back here again. But what a great opportunity it has been to work with Chairman Harkin and Senator Conrad, who is my dear friend. We became much closer friends during this process because we spent a lot more time together than we did with our spouses as we got through final negotiation. What great assets they have been for American agriculture.
I appreciate my colleague from South Carolina and my colleague from Oklahoma. I told them to come down and talk about anything they wanted to. They talked about the same things we have talked about over the last three debates on this bill. Is this a perfect bill? It absolutely is not. Farm bills are always massive pieces of legislation. It is a 5-year bill. It spends $600 billion over 10 years. I had my staff check, though, and while I appreciate the comments of the Senator from South Carolina, the 2002 farm bill spent $800 billion over 10 years. So we are $200 billion below the 2002 farm bill on a 10-year basis.
Again, it is not perfect. But what it does do is provide a school lunch program to needy kids as well as kids who can afford to pay. We are providing food stamps to people in this country who would go hungry otherwise. We are providing a food bank supplement to our food banks around the country that provide such great, valuable services to hungry people in America. We are providing the right kind of tax incentives in the form of reforming the Endangered Species Act in a positive way. We have been trying to reform the Endangered Species Act in all of my 14 years in Congress. This is the first time we have been able to do it. We did it with 250 organizations supporting it. We have good tax provisions that allow the perpetuation of land so it can't be developed forever. My children and my grandchildren will have the ability to enjoy farmland in my part of Georgia that they might otherwise not have the opportunity to enjoy.
So is it a perfect bill? No. Do we provide a safety net for farmers? You bet we do. Prices are not always going to be high. We depend today on foreign imports of oil for 62 percent of our needs. We can never, ever afford to depend on importing food into this country in the same percentage that we import oil today.
While it is not a perfect bill, while there are things that, if I had to write it by myself, I might not have written it this way, overall it is a very good piece of legislation. It covers a broad swath of America, from farming to hunger to conservation to measures involving good tax policy.
With that, I ask for passage of this bill. On behalf of Senator DeMint, who is not here--and I know a lot of my folks would like to have a voice vote, but because I know Senator DeMint wants the yeas and nays, unfortunately, I will have to ask for the yeas and nays on behalf of Senator DeMint and ask for a recorded vote.
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