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Mr. CARDIN. Mr. President, I take this time on behalf of Maryland farmers. They are hurting, along with many farmers around the Nation, because of the devastation from the drought. I am talking on behalf of the poultry farmers. As the Presiding Officer knows, in the Delmarva peninsula the impact they have had from the drought on the corn crop makes it extremely difficult to make ends meet. I am talking about dairy farmers in western Maryland. We have a robust agricultural community. It is one of the largest parts of our economy. That is true in just about every State in the Nation. We have seen the worst drought in 50 years. It is affecting 42 States in this Union. This is widespread. Congress needs to act.
First we should encourage our colleagues in the House of Representatives to take up and pass the farm bill that we have passed. That was a bipartisan bill. It was a bill that was debated in this Chamber. It is a bill that would help our agricultural community to get through this crisis brought about by extreme weather. As I mentioned, the farm bill was a bipartisan effort. It dealt with many components that would help segments of our agricultural community as a result of the conditions from the drought. Let me mention a few.
The livestock disaster provision that expired in 2011 in the farm bill is strengthened, it is made retroactive back to 2012, and it would help those who are in the cattle producing part of agriculture get through the conditions of this drought.
Seventy-two percent of the cattle-producing areas are affected by the drought. It is going to have an effect on our entire country. We have a responsibility to make sure our farm policies help them get through the unusually disastrous weather conditions. As I mentioned earlier--and the Presiding Officer being from Delaware knows the poultry industry has suffered unbelievably. The reason, quite frankly, is--and I will talk a little bit more about this--the price to produce a chick in the poultry industry is so much dependent on the price for feed and corn. The corn price is extremely high as a result, in part, of the drought conditions.
The farm bill we passed would help the corn producers which, in fact, would help the poultry industry, so it is an important part of the farm bill. From my fruit and vegetable growers, the reform in the Crop Insurance Program would help them during these very tough times.
Let me mention the conservation programs. I know Chairman Stabenow has talked about this frequently on the floor, but the farm bill we passed reforms the conservation programs and allows our farmers to do the right thing. One of the things we learned from the Dust Bowl--the crisis we confronted in the 1930s--was that we have to take care of and protect our water and soil. We need to be attentive to water and soil. After the Dust Bowl crisis, we passed in the Congress different types of conservation acts.
The farm bill we passed in this House consolidates, reforms, and strengthens the conservation programs so our farmers can do the right thing not only for producing today but producing tomorrow and taking care of the circumstances we know Mother Nature will be throwing at us. We can't do anything about that until the House takes up the farm bill. They have yet to take it up.
I urge my colleagues in the other body to take up this bill. We need to do that for many reasons, one of which, of course, is the extreme conditions that the agricultural community in this country is confronting as a result of this drought.
Let me talk specifically about poultry. On the Delmarva Peninsula, the poultry industry is in crisis. It is in crisis. The Senator from Delaware, the Presiding Officer, understands this. Seventy-five percent of the cost to produce poultry is in the price of feed. The poultry industry uses corn for feed. They need to have corn. At the present time, corn is approaching $9 a barrel. What does that mean? If the price is at that rate, it would cost about $2 per pound to produce a chick for market. The retail price is $2 a pound. It doesn't take too much of an economic background to know we cannot make it under those economic conditions.
Our poultry industry needs help. They need to be competitive, and it is difficult to do that when we are so dependent upon the price of corn. The problem with corn is we are competing uses. It is not only used in the food chain, it is used as an energy source as a result of corn-based ethanol, which distorts the food chain.
I have introduced legislation, along with Senator Boozman and Senator Mikulski, that would modify the renewable fuel standards. Those are the standards which require a certain percentage of our renewables in corn ethanol. It would modify that, and let me explain how. It would link the amount of corn ethanol required for the renewable food standards to the amount of the corn supply. That makes sense. When we have more corn, fine, we can meet the renewable standards. But this year we have had drought conditions so we have much less corn. As a result, corn is going up in price, making it very difficult for our poultry industry. So then the requirements would be reduced. We think that makes sense. That is using market forces to help meet our energy needs but also to help deal with the realities of the poultry industry.
I have also joined with Senator Hagan, Senator Chambliss, Senator Pryor, and Senator Boozman in authoring a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency calling for them to waive the renewable fuel standards conventional ethanol product mandate for this year. Again, let the farmers be able to compete. Don't let us distort the marketplace.
Let me just say, in summary, agriculture is critically important to this country for many reasons. It is one of the largest parts of our economy, it is important for our national security, and it is part of our way of life. We lead the world in agriculture productivity. It is important for us on international trade and all the reasons I mentioned. We need to be attentive to how we deal with agriculture in this country. We need a farm and agricultural policy.
The farm bill we passed is necessary to be enacted or we are going to have a lapse in our agricultural programs. We have done our work. It is critically important before the House goes home that they take up the farm bill. I hope they will pass our farm bill in order to help farmers in Maryland and around the Nation. I then hope we would also pay special attention to the poultry industry, to recognize that because of the price of corn related not just to the food chain but to energy we have a responsibility to help an industry that is so dependent upon corn as a commodity to produce the poultry product.
We need to help our agricultural community to do the right thing. It is important for our country, and I urge my colleagues to pay attention to these issues before we recess for the fall elections.
With that, I yield the floor.
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