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Public Statements

Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act Of 2012

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. CHAMBLISS. Mr. President, this amendment would require those who receive crop insurance protection from the Federal Government to now follow conservation compliance laws. Conservation compliance was enacted as part of the 1985 farm bill and has contributed almost singlehandedly to almost three decades of progress in limiting erosion, cleaning up waterways, and protecting wetlands. For those of us who love to fish and hunt, that has been of critical importance. No other program has done more for protecting our farmland and topsoil than conservation compliance.

In 1996 Congress exempted crop insurance from the conservation requirement. Back then, the reason for doing so was to increase participation in the Crop Insurance Program. And that is exactly what we have seen. We have seen premium subsidies increase by 500 percent.

The farm bill we are debating now will incentivize farmers to move from title I programs to crop insurance, and as a result soil and wetland conservation will not be a policy priority. And it should be. This shift will likely adversely impact soil and conservation without this amendment.

If crop insurance is going to be the preferred safety net for farmers, then we also need to make sure the program does not incentivize farmers to eliminate the gains we have made in the last 25 years.

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Mr. CHAMBLISS. I urge adoption of the amendment.

Who yields time?

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Mr. CHAMBLISS. Mr. President, the amendment I am offering has a very focused and modest reform objective--specifically, to accelerate by 60 days the date on which USDA may increase the import quota, if in the agency's judgment such action is needed to adequately supply the Nation's demand for sugar.

The current farm bill prohibits the USDA from adjusting the minimum sugar quota imports until April 1 of the crop year unless there is an emergency shortage of sugar that is caused by war, flood, hurricane, or other natural disaster, or other similar event as determined by the Secretary.

Experience with the April 1 date has been very unsatisfactory to independent domestic sugar refiners and their refined sugar customers who have annually experienced shortfalls in the supply of sugar and endured the elevated prices that ensue from inadequacy of timely supply. The April 1 date leaves precious little time in the balance of the sugar crop year for USDA's complex bureaucratic process.

I ask support for this amendment.

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Mr. CHAMBLISS. Mr. President, this amendment simply strikes $20 million annually in mandatory funds from the Farmers Market Promotion Program. The program will still retain its authorization for annual appropriations at $20 million per year.

I understand the important role that farmers markets play in connecting consumers with the farmers who grow their food. However, this is a grant program that should be funded with discretionary appropriations. We can't give every program in the farm bill mandatory money at a time of fiscal crisis.

The number of farmers markets in the United States has grown exponentially over the last 5 years. The Agriculture Marketing Service reports that in mid-2011, there were 7,175 farmers markets in the United States. This was a 17-percent increase over 2010.

This amendment will save the government $200 million over the next 10 years while still allowing the program to retain its integrity. I ask for consideration and for an affirmative vote.

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