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Goodlatte Supports Key Farm Bill Initiatives

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC


Bill includes Significant Reform and Provides Substantial Conservation Assistance to Virginia Farmers

Today, the House of Representatives passed the Conference Report on the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008, commonly referred to as the Farm Bill, by a vote of 318-106. As the lead House Republican negotiator on the farm bill conference, Congressman Bob Goodlatte led the charge in reforming various aspects of federal farm policy and helped craft the most reform-minded farm bill in the history of the Congress.

The conference agreement contains many good provisions for Virginia's Sixth District including strong conservation programs, provisions for the specialty crop industry, increased funding for food banks as well as significant reforms to strengthen the integrity of the farm bill while maintaining a safety net for the production of American agriculture.

The conference committee also made great strides in reforming farm programs to reduce benefits from going to the wealthiest farmers and non-farmers, requiring direct attribution of benefits, modifying beneficial interest to prevent farmers from taking advantage of windfalls from the government in times of market disruption, and strengthening the integrity of the crop insurance program as well as other significant reforms.

"I'm proud of the work the conference committee did in putting together a reform-minded, solid farm bill that addresses a variety of issues such as nutrition, conservation, and forestry while maintaining a safety net for American agricultural production. The farm bill is an important piece of legislation to people throughout the 6th District from the apple growers in Shenandoah County to the poultry and beef farmers in the Shenandoah Valley to the food banks throughout the district to all who enjoy nature and work to preserve it," said Congressman Goodlatte.

Items of interest included in the farm bill:

• Chesapeake Bay Program for Sediment Control includes almost $400 million in new mandatory funding and directs the Secretary of Agriculture to develop a comprehensive plan for restoring, preserving, and protecting the Chesapeake Bay watershed starting with the Susquehanna, Shenandoah, Patuxent, and Potomac Rivers. The program also authorized restoration enhancement and preservation cost-share projects that would help achieve the mutual goals of nutrient reduction and sediment control.

• Reauthorizes the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), clarifying forest land as eligible for the program, and provides $11 billion over five years. EQIP offers financial and technical help to assist farmers install or implement structural and management practices on eligible agricultural land

• Provides $1.9 billion for the Farmland Protection Program, which provides matching funds to help purchase development rights to keep productive farm and ranchland in agricultural uses.

• Reauthorizes the Healthy Forests Reserve Program and provides $9.75 million a year for four years. This is a voluntary working forest program where participants agree to conserve and manage endangered species habitat and in exchange, they are protected from additional regulatory burdens.

• Creates new authorities to curb illegal logging and ensure good actors in the forest products industry remain internationally competitive. Virginia's hardwood lumber producers have suffered tremendous losses due to competition with illegally harvested products from countries like Indonesia and China. Annually, the U.S. forest products industry looses roughly $460 million due competition from illegally harvested products.

• Establishes a new program, the Emergency Forest Restoration Program, to assist private forest owners with restoration following disasters such as Gypsy Moth infestations, hurricanes and wildfires.

• $1.25 billion ($250 million a year for five years) was authorized for the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). TEFAP provides food to states for distribution to needy families. Most of the food distribution is accomplished through food banks and soup kitchens. TEFAP provides food and nutrition services to those who need it by directly placing the goods into the hands of its recipients.

• Two-year extension of the conservation easement tax incentive.

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