CHAMBLISS APPLAUDS SENATE ACTION TO OVERRIDE FARM BILL VETO
Complete Fifteen-Title Farm Bill Now Law
The U.S. Senate today overwhelmingly supported overriding the President's veto of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (H.R. 6124), coauthored by U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Ranking Republican Member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. The Administration officially rejected the farm bill earlier today, including the most significant reforms to payment limitations in the history of American farm policy, as well as increased funding for nutrition, energy, specialty crops and conservation programs. The Senate voted to override the veto 80-14.
"This farm bill covers a broad swath of America, from farming to hunger to conservation to measures involving good tax policy," said Sen. Chambliss. "While it is not a perfect bill, overall this is a very good piece of legislation. We made important reforms in the nutrition title by providing better benefits to people in this country who would otherwise go hungry. We also provided the right kind of tax incentives by reforming the Endangered Species Act in a positive way. I look forward to working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture as we move into the implementation process this year."
All fifteen titles of the farm bill had to be approved by Congress again and vetoed by the President due to a clerical error that occurred prior to Memorial Day, which omitted the Trade Title of the bill. The following reforms and improvements are included in the farm bill:
Commodities: Eliminates the "three entity rule" and implements reformed payment caps for commodity program benefits; provides producers of eligible commodities an option to participate in a revenue-based counter-cyclical program; includes newly created disaster assistance program; maintains non-trade distorting direct payments; rebalances rates for the counter-cyclical program and non-recourse marketing loan program; reforms the cotton marketing loan program and provides an assistance program for the textile industry; maintains fruit and vegetable planting restriction; and creates a planting flexibility pilot program for processed fruits and vegetables in seven states.
Conservation: Provides $4 billion in new funding for conservation programs, including investments in the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, the Farmland Protection Program, and the new Conservation Stewardship Program; reauthorizes the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP); includes Sen. Chambliss' provision to help producers improve habitat for bobwhite quail, wild turkeys and many other species on CRP acres; strengthens the focus on private and tribal agricultural and nonindustrial forest lands throughout the title; and directs the Secretary to establish the standards necessary to ensure producers and landowners can receive credit for proactively mitigating climate change.
Peanuts: Maintains separate subtitle for peanuts; preserves the target price, direct payment rate and marketing loan rate established in the 2002 farm bill; provides for a mechanism to ensure handling and associated costs are not deducted from a producer's loan rate; maintains separate payment limits for peanuts; and includes CSP incentive for producers moving towards an optimal crop rotation.
Nutrition: Invests over $10 billion in new spending for critical nutrition assistance and food aid programs including $1 billion for Sen. Chambliss' Food Stamp Savings and Investment Act to exempt IRS-approved retirement and education savings accounts as countable assets to encourage long-term self-sufficiency; provides $1.2 billion in new funding to support local food banks; and expands the Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program for school children.
Rural Development: Improves the Rural Utilities Service Broadband Loan and Loan Guarantee Program to deploy broadband internet service to rural America; provides $120 million in funding for the large backlog of water and waste water projects; provides $15 million for the Rural Microenterprise Assistance Program to help assist small businesses in rural America; and creates the SouthEast Crescent Authority, which encourages economic development in Georgia and throughout the Southeast.
Research: Creates a new National Institute of Food and Agriculture to increase the visibility of competitive agricultural research; provides $230 million in mandatory funding for the specialty crop research initiative; and $78 million in mandatory funding for organic research.
Energy: Invests $320 million for new loan guarantee program for the development and construction of commercial-scale biorefineries; provides $300 million in the Bioenergy Program to provide assistance to biofuel production plants for the purchase of feedstocks; provides $118 million for biomass research and development efforts; reauthorizes and provides $250 million for grants and loan guarantees for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects; and authorizes a new program, the Biomass Crop Assistance Program to help producers transition to new energy crops for biofuel production.
Specialty Crops: Invests $466 million in mandatory funding for Specialty Crop Block Grants; provides $230 million in a new Specialty Crop Research Initiative; invests $377 million to address pest and disease management and disaster prevention; provides $20 million to establish a national network of diagnostic centers to ensure safe root stocks for nursery crops; invests $5 million for organic data collection; and provides $22 million in new money to help farmers transition into organic production.
Livestock: Establishes a catfish grading and inspection program in the Department of Agriculture; incorporates an industry compromise that provides for mandatory COOL for meat, chicken, produce, peanuts, pecans and macadamia nuts and addresses several of the implementation cost concerns; incorporates an industry compromise to encourage the interstate shipment of State inspected meat; and makes arbitration voluntary for livestock and poultry producers.
Miscellaneous Provisions: Improves the Outreach and Technical Assistance Program for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers.