FARM, NUTRITION, AND BIOENERGY ACT OF 2007 -- (House of Representatives - July 27, 2007)
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Ms. PELOSI. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman, the distinguished chairman of the Agriculture Committee for yielding, and I want to congratulate him for this achievement for bringing this important bill to the floor.
I rise to tell you why I am supporting this legislation. Before I do though, I want to commend the exceptional leadership of our colleague, Ron Kind, for his work over the years in helping to move us to a place where this farm bill, called the Farm, Nutrition and Bioenergy bill, looks quite different than the bill would have looked without his persistent and brilliant advocacy for conservation issues that are included in the bill. I think that he has moved this Congress and this legislation to a very important place that signals change and shows a new direction in our farm policy.
I support the Farm, Nutrition, and Bioenergy Act because it begins to reform farm policy while investing in energy independence, supporting conservation, strengthening nutrition assistance, and recognizing the importance of specialty crops. That means fruits and vegetables. It recognizes the vital role of our farmers and ranchers in providing food, fiber, and fuel for America and the world.
It was a big effort to bring this legislation to the floor. I acknowledge the achievements and the great work of the distinguished chairman. I want to acknowledge Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, the Chair of the Rules Committee, who had to be available very late and very early in the morning to make this discussion possible. I want to commend Chairman Rangel of the Ways and Means Committee and Congressman Lloyd Doggett for their leadership in helping to pay for this bill because this bill has all along, in all of its formation, been intended to be a bipartisan bill, which we had hoped it would be, a bill that met the needs of the American people and that is paid for. And paid for it is, indeed.
I strongly support the efforts Chairman Peterson has made in this bill to ensure that America's family farmers fuel America's energy independence. Because of this legislation we will be sending America's energy dollars to the Midwest, not to the Middle East.
The 2007 Farm, Nutrition, and Bioenergy Act makes an historic $2.4 billion investment in renewable energy, including biofuels and wind power. It boosts renewable energy investments by 600 percent and provides loan guarantees for the development of refineries that process renewable fuels. These efforts will ensure that, again, we send our energy dollars to the Midwest and across America, not to the Middle East and across the sea.
Energy independence is a national security issue, it is an environmental issue, it is an economic issue for our Nation and America's families. Thanks to this bill, it will also be an economic opportunity for America's farmers. It will create a rural renaissance that will reenergize farm country and create new businesses and good-paying jobs in rural America.
I have seen that firsthand. It has already begun. It is an important initiative that is supported and endorsed in this legislation.
So, reason number one, why I am supporting this bill, is energy independence. Not in order of priority but in order of mention.
Next, conservation: the farm bill recognizes that those who work the land, America's farmers and ranchers, are also stewards of the land.
In the area of conservation, the Farm, Nutrition, and Bioenergy bill improves access to, and funding for, initiatives to take environmentally sensitive land out of production. It encourages environmentally friendly practices on working lands. And it will invest $4.3 billion in new mandatory spending to preserve farm and ranchland, improve water quality, enhance soil conservation, air quality, and wildlife habitats on working lands.
Again I commend Congressman Ron Kind for his exceptional work on the conservation issue over time.
The issue of nutrition, of course, is fundamental to all of the people of our country. And as a mother, I take special interest in the nutrition aspects of this bill. I want to commend the committee, Democrats and Republicans, our chairman; and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, the chairman of the Ag Subcommittee of Appropriations, who worked very hard to get the most money, made mandatory, and paid for in this legislation.
In the effort of feeding the people, and many of them in need, the Farm, Nutrition, and Bioenergy bill invests over $11 billion over 10 years in nutrition initiatives to help low-income families. For the first time in 30 years, thank you, Mr. Peterson, for the first time in 30 years, the bill increases the minimum food stamp benefit and increases and indexes to inflation the standard deduction, ensuring that rising food costs do not erode a family's purchasing power. It also eliminates the cap on child care costs to help the working poor, because in order to get the food stamps, you could only spend so much money on child care. What a self-defeating policy. This bill corrects that. The food stamp provisions in this bill will prevent benefit cuts for more than 13 million working Americans over the next 5 years.
That is why the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, Catholic Charities USA, America's Second Harvest, and the Food Research and Action Center all support the nutrition funding contained in this bill.
In addition to recognizing Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro's exceptional work in this area, I want to recognize Congressman Jim McGovern for his work in ensuring that the McGovern-Dole legislation, no relation, just a coincidence, Jim McGovern is not the McGovern in the McGovern-Dole. That would be George McGovern and Senator Dole, former Republican leader of the Senate Dole. Their initiative for the international food programs, which help American farmers and farmers in other parts of the world, is a very important way for America to protect our friendship and our values to the rest of the world. In this legislation, the McGovern-Dole initiative is mandatory, and it is funded to $890 million, a big increase, and paid for.
As a Californian, I take special interest also that the bill makes a historic investment in specialty crops, providing $1.7 billion in new mandatory spending. This investment was made possible by the leadership of Congressman Dennis Cardoza. And many provisions in his bill, the EAT Healthy America Act, which is a very important bill for us, EAT Healthy America Act, were incorporated in this bill that is before us today.
This legislation supports specialty crops, that is, fruits and vegetables, by increasing market access, encouraging and facilitating consumption of nutritious agricultural products, funding research initiatives and increasing opportunities for family farmers in conservation initiatives.
Specifically, just so you know what falls under this, the bill invests $365 million for Specialty Crop Block Grants; $350 million to expand the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable School Snack Program to all 50 States, and I repeat that, $350 million to expand the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable School Snack Program to all 50 States; $215 million to create a new dedicated research initiative for specialty crops; $200 million to create a new initiative for early detection, prevention, and eradication of emerging pests and disease; $55 million for organic agriculture.
What is important about all of this is many of these resources will be invested in the Northeast, in the Middle Atlantic States, in the Northwest and California, where agriculture is a very important part of the economy but where not very much attention had been paid in the past in the farm bills. This is a big change and signals a new direction in this farm bill.
Specialty crop producers, our fruit and vegetable growers, account for nearly half of all cash crop receipts in America and are a part of the farm economy in all 50 States, as I mentioned, especially important, California, the Northeast, Northwest, and Florida.
I mentioned that I was a Californian. I was also born in Maryland; so I know the importance of the Chesapeake Bay, and I salute the chairman for the initiative in here in support of the Chesapeake Bay. I see my colleague Majority Leader Hoyer nodding his head in agreement. But I want to acknowledge Chairman Chris Van Hollen, for whom this has been a priority since he came to Congress, and now he has been joined by John Sarbanes in support of this. And I know it has bipartisan support because Congressman Gilchrest supports these initiatives as well.
From Monterey Bay across the country to the Chesapeake Bay, this bill represents a new direction. Let me just say that is why this bill is supported by the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance, a national coalition of more than 120 specialty crop organizations.
Before I leave that point, I want to talk about food safety. One of the reasons that many of us are in politics, and I know many moms come to politics, is for our having a safer, clean environment for our children. Clean air, clean water, food safety, these are things we can't do for them, but we depend on public policy to do; and the initiatives in this legislation for food safety are important. They will be greatly enhanced by the legislation put forth next week by the Appropriations subcommittee Chair, Congresswoman DeLauro, in her appropriations bill. But the bills are very compatible in that respect.
The farm bill also includes key provisions that invest in rural communities, including economic development initiatives and access to broadband telecommunications services to bridge the digital divide in rural, underserved areas. It also addresses health care, emergency, and first responder needs of rural areas, as well as creating new markets and rebuilding rural infrastructure.
And it pays special attention to the area of minority outreach and socially disadvantaged farmers by including an additional $150 million, all paid for, to provide greater outreach, coordination, and technical assistance.
Finally, this bill takes a critical step toward reform by eliminating farm payments to millionaires and closing loopholes that for decades have allowed some to evade the payment limits. More needs to be done, but we have gone in the right direction for change and for reform.
As I said before, this legislation is paid for. And that is a very, very important part of this. It is part of our PAYGO, no-new-deficit spending. It was a challenge. It has been met. And it has been met in a way that meets our values.
The Farm, Nutrition, and Bioenergy Act will ensure that future farm bills will never look the same as those of the past. I see one of the co-Chairs of our Rural Working Group here, very important, who is putting forth the initiative on energy independence for rural America, Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin. I thank you for your leadership in that regard. And thanks as well to the efforts of Chairman Peterson and many others who have made an historic investment in energy independence and nutrition assistance. This bill's effects will also be felt far from farm country.
As 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 is as true now and it was then. President Washington understood, as this bill's authors understand, that encouraging and investing in American agriculture pays dividends to the entire Nation. In this legislation we will strengthen America's agriculture, but we also will do much more. We will help reignite rural America's economic engine and create good-paying jobs and create good businesses here at home. We will fuel a Nation's energy needs through clean, American-made renewable energy. We will be better stewards of the land and protect our environment. And, by the way, we hope to do much more in that regard when we go to conference. And we will be a more caring Nation by better meeting the needs of the most vulnerable.
Those great goals can be achieved with the help of this legislation and with the strong bipartisan support of the House today.
I just wanted to take a few minutes to tell you why I am supporting the Farm, Nutrition, and Bioenergy Act. And, once again, I salute the distinguished chairman for this achievement.