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Pelosi: We Must Keep America's Farmers and Ranchers Strong

Location: Washington, DC

Pelosi: We Must Keep America's Farmers and Ranchers Strong

Speaker Nancy Pelosi is scheduled to deliver the keynote address at the National Farmers Union's 105th Annual Convention tonight in Orlando, Fla.

In her remarks, Speaker Pelosi will address the upcoming reauthorization of the Farm Bill and the role that farmers will play in making America energy independent. Speaker Pelosi will also announce that agriculture disaster relief will be included in the supplemental appropriations bill expected to be before the House later this month.

Below are the Speaker's remarks, as prepared for delivery:

"Thank you for that kind introduction Chairman Peterson, and thank you for your leadership.

"As the Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, the first co-chair of the House Democrats' Rural Working Group, and a founding member of the ‘Blue Dog' Coalition, Collin is a source of advice and counsel on the issues facing rural America for me.

"Chairman Peterson has taken a leading role in Congress promoting biofuels as a homegrown way for America to meet its growing energy needs. He has been working on biofuel issues since his days in the Minnesota State Senate. Last summer, it was a privilege for me to visit him in his district in Minnesota, and see firsthand how his home state is leading the way on renewable fuels.

"But now that I have visited Collin's district, I want to know when he is going to visit mine.

"When I ask him to visit San Francisco, all he ever says is: ‘Do you need a band?'

"I am looking forward to hearing from Collin's band, the Second Amendments, later tonight.

"Tom Buis: thank you for your leadership as President of the National Farmers Union. Tom is both a farmer and a former Capitol Hill staffer - so he knows best how to ensure that your voices are heard in Washington.

"It was a pleasure to see Tom and many of you last year on Capitol Hill. You should know I display with great pride my Golden Triangle Award.

"Congratulations to Tony Hulman George for receiving the ‘Friend of the Farmer Award.' I salute your efforts to make all the vehicles on your speedway run on E-85 fuel. Your work does indeed make you a friend of the farmer, a friend of the environment, and a friend of the future.

"And congratulations to John Stencel and Robert Lewis for receiving the meritorious service award.

"I also want to recognize Joaquin Contente, the President of the California Farmers Union, and all of the Farmers Union representatives from California who are here tonight.

"In California, agriculture has historically been our leading industry.

"But no matter where you are from, American agriculture is a fertile area for common ground.

"You, as America's farmers and ranchers, have given us the most abundant, most affordable, and safest food supply in history. You are the backbone of a healthy economy and a secure nation.

"We must create federal policies that address your challenges, and reflect your interests.

"The Farm Bill presents that opportunity. This Congress, we will have a different approach to it than in years past.

"Under Chairman Peterson's leadership, the Farm Bill will not only work to ensure a safety net for America's farmers, it will assume a larger role in responding to energy security, energy cost, and rural economic development concerns.

"And for the first time in a long time, it will be written in the Committee - starting with the Subcommittees - and will not be negotiated in a back room with only big agribusiness lobbyists at the table. Democrats believe this bill deserves consideration in the full light of day, with input from the family farmers and ranchers it most affects.

"I know that the Farmers Union has held field hearings across the country to hear from you about what changes need to be made in the Farm Bill. Our open and fair process will allow your voices to be heard.

"Unfortunately, as you know, we are facing a difficult year of tough fiscal constraints.

"We are now doing the hard work of turning this Congress into one of fiscal responsibility - our responsibility to our future generations demands it. We have passed the strict standards of pay-as-you-go, no new deficit spending to ensure our future generations have boundless opportunity, not mountains of debt.

"But it also means that we face difficult funding decisions, in the Farm Bill, and throughout the year. I know that you are concerned about further budget reductions on agricultural, food assistance, conservation and other critical initiatives - and with Chairman Peterson leading the charge, we will work to fund your key priorities.

"I know that agricultural disaster assistance is chief among your key priorities. It is a key priority for House Democrats as well. We recognize the pressing, urgent need to provide agricultural disaster assistance to our rural communities in times of flood, drought, and other natural disasters. It strengthens our rural communities and our nation's economy.

"That is why I am proud to announce that emergency disaster assistance will be included in the supplemental.

"The hard work isn't over yet. President Bush has made clear his opposition to comprehensive disaster relief with continued veto threats.

"I see funding disaster relief in the supplemental as a short-term solution. Under Chairman Peterson's leadership, we will look for long-term solutions for agriculture disaster assistance.

"In the first 100 hours that Democrats were in the majority in the House, we were thinking of you - America's family farmers and ranchers.

"We began our work to set America on the path toward energy independence, by rolling back 14 billion dollars in subsidies for Big Oil and investing in clean, alternative energy resources. Because we believe we must renew our commitment to renewable energy and fuels from the farm as opposed to our continued reliance on foreign oil.

"Thank you for the support of the National Farmers Union to get this bill passed - with a broad bipartisan coalition of Members from all across the country.

"Now we must look for long term solutions that will make our nation energy independent.

"Energy independence is a national security issue, it is an environmental issue, and it is an economic issue for our country and for America's families. It can be an economic solution for America's farmers.

"The House Democratic Rural Working Group has created a plan called Energize America: America's farmers fueling America's energy independence. It recognizes that while the energy challenges facing our nation are great, the solutions are right here at home. From corn in the Midwest to soybeans in North Carolina - you grow the crops that can be converted into the biofuels that power our cars and trucks.

"Now that Democrats are in the majority, we intend to pass into law energy independence solutions that are American-owned and home-grown.

"First, we must encourage production of biofuels not only from corn, but from a variety of different crops. Transitioning to cellulosic ethanol will help alleviate pressure that increased demand for corn and its impact on prices may place on the livestock, dairy and poultry producers.

"Biofuels production from cellulosic sources will be possible through sustained investment in research and development of new technologies. Financing of cellulosic ethanol plants will bring these biofuels into the commercial market today and create economic opportunities in rural areas across the nation.

"In doing so, we will send our energy dollars to the Midwest and across America, instead of the Middle East.

"To increase the consumption of these biofuels, we must promote the use of vehicles that will run on these new fuels. The Big Three automakers have pledged to double their production of flex-fuel vehicles by 2010. I applaud their commitment and will work to see that that number continues to increase until it reaches 100 percent.

"Essential to the long-term success of biofuels is expanding the distribution. Increasing and extending tax credits for installing E85 pumps will help make E-85 and biodiesel available at gas stations from coast to coast.

"Wind is another renewable energy source that offers our farmers and ranchers great opportunity. Extending the renewable energy production tax credit, improving access to the grid, and encouraging local ownership and operations of wind turbines and pass will allow farmers to play a lead role in the development and production of electricity from wind.

"Let me salute you for once again demonstrating your vision and foresight with your program to reduce carbon emissions and help prevent global warming. Through the use of farming practices that sequester carbon in the soil, your members are earning carbon credits on the Chicago Climate Exchange. I am tempted to call your program ‘ground-breaking,' even though it requires ‘no-till' practices.

"By making the investments we need to make in renewable energy we can turn America's farms and fields into the victory gardens of the 21st century. This is our commitment to you, to the American people, and to the future.

"A strong future for our rural areas means working to address the day to day challenges you face. This Congress has already begun to do so.

"In the first days following our 100 hours, we passed the Small Business Tax Relief Act to ensure fairness for spouses working on family farms and in small family businesses. The bill rectifies current law where widows, widowers and their children are left without Social Security when tragedy strikes.

"We also recognize that methamphetamines are a serious and growing menace in our rural areas. Under the leadership of Bart Gordon of Tennessee, we have passed legislation that will protect innocent families against the aftereffects of methamphetamine production by ensuring that strict standards are used in cleaning up illegal meth labs.

"As I said earlier, you are the backbone of a strong and vibrant American economy, and on the frontlines of our national security. You are also on the front lines in the fight against the scourge of hunger, both here at home and around the world. Too many of our fellow citizens - too many of our children - go to bed hungry at night. Farmers know about sacrifice. You know about helping your neighbors in need. The food that you grow and produce can help put an end to hunger once and for all. Thank you.

"In the 18th century, George Washington said, ‘I know of no pursuit in which more real and important services can be rendered to any country than by improving its agriculture…'

"That was as true then, as it is now.

"I come here today on behalf of a grateful Congress for your service to our country. You have fed and clothed our nation, and kept our economy strong. In turn, we must keep America's farmers and ranchers strong - it's part of our history, and essential to our future. And we will."

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