Pryor Applauds Senate Passage of Farm Bill
Senator Mark Pryor today said the Farm Bill passed by the Senate maintains a critical safety net for farmers; invests in renewable, farm-based energy; emphasizes conservation; boosts nutrition programs and advances rural development programs. He added that two of his amendments were accepted by the Senate, including a measure to spur investment in cellulosic biofuel and improve quality control standards for university and private sector research.
"The Farm Bill strikes the right balance to help our farmers produce a safe, abundant and affordable food supply. Arkansas farmers were well-represented at the negotiating table by the entire congressional delegation, and they came out as winners during some knock-down, drag out fights," Pryor said. "This bill also ramps up farm-based energy and makes critical investments in conservation, economic development and nutrition programs that will benefit families and the economies of rural America."
Pryor said rural Arkansas can help meet our nation's energy challenges, but farmers first need the resources and infrastructure in place before switching markets. He said the state has tremendous potential for cellulosic ethanol -- where farmers could turn switch grass, cornstarch, miscanthus and woodchips into the next generation of biofuel -- but it needs companies willing to invest and commercialize the fuel.
His amendment requires the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to conduct a state-by-state analysis of growth potential for cellulosic feedstock and provide a rating of each state's potential for contributing to the cellulosic energy marketplace. In addition, the 18-month study would identify for each state the range of potential feedstock that can be grown for cellulosic ethanol, the available acreage for growing cellulosic feedstock, the quantity of energy per acre for each feedstock and the development potential for cellulosic feedstock.
"Many producers understand the very real energy potential that exists in our fields and forests. They need the investment dollars to harness this potential and move cellulosic energy to the next level," Pryor said. "I believe this analysis will identify Arkansas's potential and drive investors to our state in order to accelerate the commercialization phase and meet our nation's growing energy challenges."
Second, Pryor said his measure was accepted into the Farm Bill that will improve standards for quality control and management in research between the private sector and universities in order to prevent another major market disruption, similar to what occurred last year in the U.S. rice industry. In 2006, the unauthorized and unapproved release of a strain of rice entered the U.S. rice crop and disrupted rice exports to Europe, Asia and the Middle East and reduced the value of the long grain rice crop by almost $200 million. Pryor said the USDA spent a year investigating the cause and then offered several recommendations to prevent related problems in the future. His amendment will require the USDA to turn those recommendations into regulations, including policies to enhance the quality of records, retain representative samples, maintain identity and control in the event of an unauthorized release, develop corrective actions and protocols for conducting molecular forensics, provide clarity in contractual agreements, develop standards for quality management systems and use electronic permits to store documents.
"Partnerships between universities and the private sector have produced some of the most cutting-edge research in agriculture. That's why we must ensure there are smart policies in place to protect the integrity of this research and prevent potential disturbances in the global marketplace," Pryor said. "My measure will implement the USDA's recommendations to improve research capabilities and ensure the safety of our food and the viability of U.S. markets."