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Ms. STABENOW. First, I thank our leaders on this important Agriculture bill--the chairman, whom I appreciate so much for all of his hard work; he has a great bill in front of us, along with the ranking member from Kansas.
I wish to speak about legislation the ranking member, Senator Brownback, and I have been working on now for some time. The first piece of it has proven to be extremely effective, despite the naysayers. It has come back even more successful than we thought it would. I thank Senator Brownback for working with me. Making sure this is fully paid for within the recovery package is important to Senator Brownback, and this achieves that. I thank him for partnering with me and understanding the significance of what we have been working to do.
The CARS Program has truly been an incredible success. In only a week, it has proven to be an excellent way to stimulate the economy. Dealers haven't seen this level of customer excitement in years. I can tell you, as someone who grew up on a car lot--my dad and grandfather had an Oldsmobile dealership when I was growing up. This is important to small towns as well as big cities across the country.
We are not only helping to save the over 160,000 dealership jobs across the country, but it is making our air cleaner and reducing oil consumption. So far, we have seen a 61-percent increase in vehicle fuel economy, which I think is surprising, as we hoped for an increase and we hoped people would turn in vehicles with lower mileage and get a higher mileage vehicle. In fact, we have seen even greater results than we thought we would. They are trading in vehicles averaging 15.8 miles per gallon, and the new vehicles average 25.4 miles per gallon. So this is extremely significant.
What is even more important is that is $700 to $1,000 a year in lower gas prices for the average family. At this time, when money is so tight, when people are concerned about saving every penny, this is a good deal for consumers, a good deal for the environment, for the economy, small businesses, as well as, certainly, everyone involved in the auto industry.
It is also significant that 83 percent of the trade-ins are trucks and 60 percent of the new vehicles are small cars. So we are seeing people move away from their clunker truck into a more energy-efficient car. That is good news for the environment and for fuel economy for the average family as well.
This has been a great program, with over 250,000 cars sold. Dealers are packed and sales are booming. At a GM dealership in Ferndale, MI, foot traffic was up 60 percent just last week, according to the general manager.
It is not just dealerships being helped, as I indicated. Steel and aluminum producers have announced that they expect a benefit from the program, as more cars are made to meet demand generated by the program. Scrap recyclers, which supply the steel industry, which have also been hurting lately, are also seeing a pickup in business. The boost to these industries isn't just immediate either. Analysts predict that the benefits will have a lasting impact. So we are talking broadly about manufacturing materials, as well as the small businesses in the communities involved.
Getting people into showrooms and excited again is having a psychological impact on consumers and businesses as well. This is happening all over the country.
The Houston Chronicle reports that more than 70 percent of the clunkers being traded in are SUVs, and 84 percent of the new vehicles are small, fuel-efficient cars.
The Brownsville Herald in Texas quotes Don Johnson, the owner of The Real Don Johnson Chrysler-Jeep-Hyundai, who said:
This is a good deal for the people. It's a good deal for us because we will sell more cars, but it's a good deal for people.
The Daily Record in Dunn, NC, reports strong interest and increased traffic in dealerships. Dan Lowe, from John Hiester Chrysler Jeep Dodge in Lillington, NC, said his dealership is getting 25 to 30 calls a day about the CARS Program. He told the newspaper:
We are excited about anything that gets cars off the lot.
This is certainly doing that.
A Pennsylvania car dealer, Bill Rosado, told the Wall Street Journal:
I can't believe I'm saying this: I need more Chrysler inventory.
Then he said:
My goodness, I've got to rehearse that line a couple times.
This program has been extremely successful in a very short amount of time.
The House, because of its success, as we all know, has acted to add additional dollars by moving from one program in the recovery package into this program. I thank them very much for doing that and for the leadership of my partner in the House, Betty Sutton, and the delegation from Michigan, who worked so hard, and also those from Ohio, Indiana, and others as well.
In the Senate, we have had great bipartisan support. Again, I thank my bipartisan cosponsor, Senator Brownback, and I thank Senator Voinovich as well. We have been partnering on something that makes sense. This is taking some stimulus dollars and putting them directly into a stimulus that is visible; it is working, it is putting money into the economy, and it is saving people money on gas. It is something I believe is important to continue.
I will close by also thanking our leader, Senator Reid, who has once again been extremely supportive of bringing this forward so we have an opportunity to vote. I am hopeful we will see a strong, bipartisan vote on this important stimulus.
I thank the Chair.
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Ms. STABENOW. Mr. President, I would like to engage Senator Kohl in a colloquy concerning funding for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program.
It is my understanding that this bill provides the budget request and will meet current demand according to USDA. I know that the House-passed measure includes additional funding to add caseload and bring new States into this critically important program. I strongly support the level of funding provided in the House-passed measure and expanding the program into the six States USDA has approved: Arkansas, Oklahoma, Delaware, Utah, New Jersey, and Georgia.
I hope that as this bill goes to conference we can work together to reconcile those differences.
Mr. KOHL. I can assure Senator Stabenow that we will do all that we can to continue to improve this important program.
Ms. STABENOW. I appreciate Chairman Kohl's assurance. This program is critically important to thousands of seniors in Michigan and nationwide who cannot afford to buy the foods they need to meet their special dietary needs.
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