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Ms. STABENOW. Mr. President, I want to speak as the chair of the Agriculture Committee about what is happening on the droughts across the country.
First, I want to take a moment as the author of the Bring Jobs Home Act to say that this afternoon we are going to have an opportunity to come together--as we did on the farm bill when we came together on a bipartisan basis--to focus on growing things in America and the need to strengthen our economy, provide economic certainty around agriculture and the food industry in America. It was a wonderful opportunity for us to get something done.
This afternoon, we are going to have the same kind of opportunity to come together and recommit ourselves to making things in America. The Bring Jobs Home Act is a very simple, straightforward way to eliminate a subsidy that should have been gone a long time ago, and that is the tax writeoff for shipping jobs overseas.
When someone is losing their job because a plant is closing to go overseas, to add insult to injury, as a taxpayer, they get to pay the cost of the moving. It is outrageous. What we want to do is stop that. That is what the bill does. It gives a business tax deduction for the cost of bringing jobs home and then adds another 20-percent tax deduction on top of it to encourage businesses to do that. We will be talking more about that later, but it is very important and I hope my colleagues will come together and send a very strong message about American jobs. Let's bring those jobs home.
Mr. President, I also want to talk today about the terrible weather conditions across the country. It started with an early spring and then a returning frost and snow in Michigan. Areas around the country have orchards and fruit crops that have gone from frost to an extension of a drought situation that is absolutely terrible. It is a very serious crisis around the country.
Not since the days of the Dust Bowl have we seen this lethal combination of scorching heat and bone-dry weather in the production regions across our country. As I speak, 80 percent of the country is suffering from abnormal dry or drought conditions; 64 percent is suffering from moderate or severe drought. That is the highest percentage in 56 years.
As we can see on the map, any area that is in color here has had some kind of a drought. The black areas are the worst. Either it is from abnormally dry, moderate, severe, or exceptional drought in almost every area of the country. This is extremely severe, and we need to take action to support our growers and ranchers.
We have almost 1,300 counties across the country rated as drought disaster areas, and that is one-third of all the counties in the United States. Every day it seems the Secretary of Agriculture is adding more to the list. More than 75 percent of the Nation's corn and soybean crops are in drought-affected areas and more than one-third of those crops are now rated poor to very poor. This is devastating our crops and our livestock producers.
Only one-third of our soybean crop is considered good to excellent right now, which is down by about 30 percent from last year.
According to the Department of Agriculture's weekly progress report, less than one-third of the Nation's corn crop is in good or excellent condition. Nearly 40 percent is rated poor or very poor. So we are talking about a massive effect on farmers, on livestock producers, and ultimately on consumers in America.
Facing higher food and feed costs and pastures that are withering due to the heat, our ranchers and livestock producers could see significant losses. I had an opportunity a number of months ago with Senator Roberts to be in Kansas and to see what was happening then, even before all of this. I understand how very serious this is for our livestock producers. The livestock sector could face significant declines in margins, and we could see a sharp increase in consumer prices for meat and eggs and dairy.
At a time when middle-class families are still trying to recover from the great recession, paying more at the grocery store is not going to help. In fact, it is going to hurt a lot.
The USDA has opened their Conservation Reserve Program so that land will be there for grazing, but we know it is not going to be enough for producers. There is no crop insurance equivalent for livestock. More producers may lose their ranches because of this drought. Livestock disaster assistance expired last year. We need the farm bill to become law so we can make this help available again because in the farm bill we extend the livestock disaster assistance program permanently, and we make it available for this year.
This drought is a serious problem, devastating all of our farmers, and will come home to families here and around the world, unfortunately, all too soon. We can't control the weather. We know that. In fact, farming and ranching are the riskiest businesses in the world. I should say even though they are the riskiest businesses, we have the safest, most affordable food supply in the world, and it is part of our national security. We can't control the weather and the risks the farmers face, but this drought underscores the need for improved risk management tools and better crop insurance. It underscores the need for a farm bill.
We need to get a farm bill done now more than ever. We have 16 million people who work in this country because of the agriculture and food industries--almost one out of four in Michigan. We came together--and it was a lot of work, a lot of bipartisan effort, and I am very proud of what we did together in the Senate a couple of weeks ago--to pass a farm bill.
We now have the House having acted in committee and passed a strong bipartisan farm bill. It is different. There are some things, certainly, we need to work out in our conference committee. Our bill has more reforms in it, and we certainly are concerned about the nutrition cuts. But I will say this: We need the House to pass their farm bill so we can come together in conference committee and find the right balance that is good for families, consumers, farmers, ranchers, and businesspeople across the country. I am very confident we can do that, but we need the House to act to be able to make that happen. Weather disasters are getting worse every day, which makes it even more important that we have our legislation and, frankly, that we work together to add some pieces to it in a conference committee so we can address what is happening.
In our bill that passed, as I said, we extended a livestock disaster assistance program and made it retroactive to this year. We also included a provision for fruit commodities that don't currently have crop insurance to allow them to be able to buy into a program that is in law. We actually strengthened it, made it better. For those who don't have crop insurance, we also said they could get help this year. So we do have some things in the bill we passed, and we can work together to strengthen that even more.
Senator Baucus, the chairman of the Finance Committee, is working, and we are working closely with him, on something that would be a more comprehensive disaster assistance program. In order to be able to do that, we have to have a farm bill.
This is not, as we know, a partisan issue. We came together across the aisle. Consumers, Democrats, Republicans, Independents, people who vote, and who don't vote--people across this country--care about a safe, reliable, and affordable food system, and that certainly goes for our farmers and ranchers and their families in communities all across America who were hit so hard by the drought.
This drought is evidence that we need to come together and act. When we look at this kind of weather map and what is happening and the fact that the majority of communities in our country are facing disaster as a result of the droughts and other things that happened relating to the weather, we need to act. We need to act in a responsible bipartisan manner. We can do that. We did that in the Senate. The House committee did it, and I commend them for that. We need the support and help of the leadership in the House to be able to get this to the floor and get it passed so we can get it done.
Thank you very much, Mr. President.
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Ms. STABENOW. Mr. President, in just a couple minutes we are going to be voting on a very important policy, a very important bill I am proud to sponsor with a number of cosponsors, a number of colleagues, called the Bring Jobs Home Act. It goes to the heart of what has been happening in a global economy when we have not been paying attention to our Tax Code or other things that we ought to be doing to be able to bring jobs home and other countries are aggressively working to take our manufacturing base, to take our middle class. They know when they look at our country we have a middle class because we make products and grow products, so they are rushing to be able to make products and to innovate and so on and to create incentives for our jobs to be shipped overseas.
We know we are in a global economy. We know our companies are competing with countries. We have a whole range of things we have been working to do to be able to support and incentivize and help manufacturers and other businesses here to innovate, expand advanced manufacturing, IT services, among others. But what we have not been paying attention to is how our own Tax Code actually is incentivizing or supporting--at the very least supporting and helping companies ship jobs overseas.
There is a very important, very basic policy we will be voting on today. If a company decides to pack up and move overseas, should they be able to write that off their taxes and you and I--all of us as American taxpayers--pay for it? I do not think there are too many people in the country who would say yes to that. In fact, I can't imagine why anybody would say yes to that. The reality is, if somebody loses their job at a plant and then they find out they get the privilege, as an American taxpayer, to help pay for the move, folks say: Are you kidding me or they say a whole lot of other things.
This bill, the Bring Jobs Home Act, is very straightforward. It simply says we are not going to pay for that anymore. That loophole will be gone. However, if they want to bring jobs back, we will be happy to let them deduct those costs as a business expense, for bringing a job home. In fact, we will give them another 20-percent tax credit for 20 percent of their costs on top of it. So we are happy to incentivize coming home and to support their efforts to come home, but we are not paying for them to leave. That is basically what this is about.
We are going to have a vote on whether to proceed to this bill. As we know around here, unfortunately, we have seen the process that used to be used rarely now used on every bill, to where we cannot even get to the bill to vote on that with a majority vote without going through a supermajority to be able to stop a filibuster, which is right now what basically has been happening. There is an objection. We have to get 60 votes to overcome it; otherwise, the filibuster continues.
We will need to do that today. We need bipartisan support to do that. I hope we will have that. A couple weeks ago we came together in strong bipartisan support. We worked together very hard, long hours, to pass a farm bill. That is about growing products in America. Now we have an opportunity to work together, come together in a bipartisan basis to support making products in America.
We do not have a middle class unless we make products and grow products. It is not going to make any sense if we continue to have a tax policy that actually encourages or helps you to leave America.
What we have seen now is that we are actually losing jobs. We know in the last decade 2.4 million jobs were shipped overseas. Those are just the ones they are able to count at this point. So 2.4 million jobs have been shipped overseas, at a minimum, and we help to pay for it. The good news is we have a lot of companies now, for a lot of reasons--the fact that we have the most productive, the smartest, most talented workforce in the world, we have high productivity in our country--we have companies now bringing jobs back and we want to accelerate that, to support that effort.
I am proud that in our automobile industry we are seeing jobs come back with support and help from policies that allowed loans to retool older plants. Ford Motor Company has taken their largest plant in Wayne, MI, and retooled it, along within investment in advanced batteries. Jobs are coming back from Mexico. Some are coming from other countries as well. GM is doing the same kind of thing, Chrysler--I am sure other companies as well. We know many companies, large and small, are looking at this.
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to have in a businessman from Michigan who is the CEO of a company called GalaxE.Solutions. He actually lives in New Jersey but is now having a major presence in Michigan, in Detroit, hiring 500 people in IT, information technology. Those are jobs coming back from India, Brazil, China.
One of the things I heard, as he was talking yesterday, is when we look at the bottom line, costs matter. If we have a Tax Code that helps him bring jobs back rather than supporting him to take jobs away, to ship them overseas, it makes a difference. It matters. It matters not only for the cost but for the signal it sends about how serious we are in creating jobs in America.
I cannot imagine anybody who doesn't want to see ``Made in America'' again on everything. We are not going to get there if we do not start with the basics. That is what this is. I know you have talked about this so many times as well. This is about the basic premise of saying we are going to stop loopholes in the Tax Code that reward companies that are shipping jobs overseas and we are instead going to support and incentivize jobs coming back.
We know there are many other things, in addition to this, that we need to do. We need comprehensive tax reform in a global economy. There is no question about that. That is something I am confident we will be doing in the months ahead and into the next year. We need to do that. We need to do it on a bipartisan basis. But that is not a reason not to close this loophole, to stop this policy that makes no sense.
We have a lot more to do. We know that. We need to come together around policies that focus on innovation and education and rebuilding America and supporting the great entrepreneurs of the country--small businesses, large businesses. We know that. There is much to do. But today we have a chance to do something. We have a chance to do something. This is very straightforward. We have a chance to simply say the Tax Code in America is not going to reward or pay for the costs of American jobs being shipped overseas. It is as basic as that. No other country in the world would do this. They think we are crazy to have this kind of policy in place. So today is a chance to say: No, we are not crazy. We get it.
We know there is a lot to do, but let's come together on this issue and then we can come together on the next and the next and continue to build and rebuild our economy for the future.
But today is very simple. Today is the day to say no to American taxpayers helping to pay the costs for American jobs being shipped overseas. It is a day to say yes to supporting, through tax deductions, jobs coming back and additional incentives on top of that. I hope my colleagues will come together and very strongly vote yes on this measure so we can proceed to debate and to pass something that I know is strongly supported across our country.
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Ms. STABENOW. Thank you, Mr. President. I wish to take a moment to speak about what just happened and my deep concern about what just happened with this vote.
On the one hand, we have 56 Members, a majority--a substantial majority of Members who voted yes, that they want to bring jobs home, that they want to stop paying for jobs that have been shipped overseas, and that we want to support and provide assistance through the Tax Code to bring jobs home. Fifty-six Members--that is a majority. What we didn't have is a supermajority to stop a filibuster.
So this is basically what has been happening here. We have a situation where, despite the will of the majority of the people here, the majority of Senators who want to move forward to this legislation and pass it, because we have 56 votes to pass it, we don't have a supermajority. This is what has been happening over and over in the Senate despite the fact that people want us to work together and get things done.
What we are trying to do--and we are going to continue to push forward--is to say very clearly to businesses that if they are going to close shop and ship jobs overseas, it is on their dime, not the American taxpayers' dime. We are not going to help pay for it. If they want to bring jobs back, we are happy to have our Tax Code allow businesses to write off those costs. In fact, we will give businesses an extra 20 percent toward those costs.
This is deeply concerning to me today. I think those watching around the country are probably scratching their heads or saying things that we probably can't say on the Senate floor about what in the world is going on when we can't come together on the simple premise that Americans should not be paying for jobs shipped overseas.
So we are going to keep at it until we get it done. What we ought to be unified around is having the words ``Made in America'' on everything again in this country. We are going to keep fighting until we can get that done.
Thank you, Mr. President.
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