Citing concerns on how Louisiana farmers would negatively fare under a new, five-year Senate farm bill, U.S. Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., today voted against the legislation. The bill would have drastic consequences for Louisiana's rice farmers and require them to take a larger cut in assistance than any other commodity. More than 2,000 rice farmers call Louisiana home, and the rice industry generates $638 million in economic activity for Louisiana each year. Louisiana's farmers and ranchers generated $10.7 billion in economic activity last year alone.
"Few states in the country produce as many diverse crops as we do in Louisiana. We needed a farm bill that supports all of our farmers. This bill didn't, and that's why I voted against it. Farming is more than a business, it is more than a job; it's a way of life," Sen. Landrieu said. "I support efforts to reform and improve federal farm programs. However, unlike other commodities that take a 30 percent average reduction under this bill, rice farmers are asked to take a 65 percent reduction. Without an adequate safety net that can actually catch our rice farmers if they fall, the rice industry in Louisiana as well as the entire infrastructure on which it is built will fail. I hope that as the farm bill travels to the House, the farm provisions dealing with rice are improved."
Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation President Ronald Anderson said: "The Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation appreciates the efforts of Sen. Landrieu to improve the Senate's farm bill provisions so that all regions and commodities would be provided both fair and adequate safety nets. Unfortunately, the Senate's version of the farm bill as amended fell short on addressing the needs for not only Louisiana but southern agriculture in general. We appreciate her voting against both harmful amendments and final passage. We hope that her vote will help to send a clear message to House members and ultimately the farm bill conferees that adequate producer safety net options for all commodities must be included in the final farm bill."
Louisiana Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain said: "I appreciate Senator Landrieu and other members of the Senate working with us and fighting to improve the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act. It is important that we now continue our work with the House members towards a balanced approach to farm policy and sustain the economic viability and environmental sustainability of U.S. agriculture. As there are some provisions that we do not agree with, it is imperative that we ultimately develop a farm bill that will grow the largest and most diverse industry in America."
Yesterday, Sen. Landrieu led the effort to defeat an amendment offered by Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., that would have eliminated the adjustments made to U.S. sugar policy in the 2008 farm bill. Had the amendment passed, it would have crippled U.S. sugar policy; badly damaged the U.S. industry; threatened the safety, quality and reliability of consumer supplies; and cost American jobs.
Sen. Landrieu continued: "We beat back several attacks to destroy the sugar program that has been an important staple in the state of Louisiana. To the critics I ask: "Why would you want to end the program that benefits our entire nation and doesn't cost the taxpayer any money?'"
Last week, Sen. Landrieu spoke with Louisiana rice growers about concerns that the bill did not include adequate federal support programs and disproportionately reduces federal support for rice, compared to other commodities. Sen. Landrieu also facilitated a call on June 6 between Louisiana rice growers and the Chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.