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Madam President, I rise today to express my support for the Agricultural Act of 2014, which is commonly known as the farm bill. It has been quite a journey over the past 3 years, and the bill before us is the result of many long hours of hard work. This bill, I understand, will be on the floor come Monday, and hopefully we will have a vote on final passage on this bill on Tuesday.
I believe this bill achieves the promise of reform while tackling the single largest domestic issue facing our country: The debt and the deficit. I commend Chairwoman Stabenow, Chairman Lucas, Ranking Members Cochran and Peterson, as well as my fellow conferees for finishing what has been a very difficult and complex task.
It is my sincere hope the Senate will adopt this bipartisan conference report, a bill that reforms critical farm programs, strengthens the Nation's food security, protects the livelihood of our farmers and ranchers and preserves our efforts to remain good stewards of the environment.
The bill not only works to protect producers in a time of need, but it also serves as a safety net for the nutritional well-being of low-income Americans. Our nutrition assistance programs play a key role in ensuring that needy Americans have access to the food they need to lead healthy, productive lives.
We have worked to find savings while still ensuring those in greatest need are provided a helping hand. I commend the important reinvestments made in this bill to local food banks which provide support for so many of our communities.
Agricultural producers face a combination of challenges, such as unpredictable weather, variable input costs and market volatility that all combine to determine profit or loss in any given year. The 2008 farm bill provided a strong safety net for producers, and I believe the farm bill before us adheres to and honors the same commitment we made 5 years ago in that farm bill.
Notably, Congress has taken a fresh look at our commodity programs. Maintaining an effective safety net is critical to America's farmers, and the bill before us eliminates direct payments while enhancing options for farmers to manage their risk. We do so in a way that doesn't disadvantage one region over another, a formula I thought was lacking in versions of this bill in the last Congress. Since then, I have stressed to my colleagues the importance of producer choice, and I am truly pleased with the options that are built into this piece of legislation.
One part of this bill I am uniquely proud of concerns cotton, a crop that is particularly close to my heart and close to my home. More than any other part of this bill, the Upland cotton program represents fundamental reform. It meets our commitments in the World Trade Organization and will resolve our dispute with Brazil.
Moreover, our Nation's farmers and landowners deserve to have long-term conservation programs that have certainty to effectively and efficiently manage their land and resources for the years ahead. Locally led conservation is critical in supporting America's long-term environmental and economic stability. Not only do farm bill conservation programs play a key role in supporting clean air, clean water, and productive soils, they also help producers avoid unnecessary regulation and support our Nation's long-term economic and food security.
I also want to highlight language in this bill that links conservation compliance to crop insurance. My amendment led many leading agricultural, conservation, and crop insurance groups to come together and forge a compromise, ensuring crop insurance doesn't compromise our natural resources for generations to come. It also provides an opportunity for wildlife habitat to flourish and, thus, this farm bill is supported by virtually every hunting and fishing organization in the country.
While all of the regulatory issues I supported were not able to be included in the final conference report, I am happy that language was included to clarify forest roads are not point sources and are not subject to permit requirements under the Clean Water Act.
We must do what we can to protect producers, businesses, and all of our constituents from over-burdensome regulations coming out of EPA. After all, I am confident we have balanced the needs and interests between commodities and regions. Ultimately, the reason we are here is to represent those who work the land each and every day to ensure that Americans continue to have the highest quality agricultural products in the world.
Contrary to popular belief, food does not come from the grocery store. For every piece of fresh produce purchased, every pound of meat, every cotton t-shirt, and for every jar of peanut butter there is a farmer or a rancher somewhere in America working each and every day--and working very hard--to get it there. I hope that we never take for granted the ability to get safe quality food to stores across America for consumers to purchase.
This will be my fourth and final farm bill as a Member of Congress. As a former chairman and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, I am very proud of this bill and of all previous farm bills of which I have had the privilege to be a part.
As I have said, I have been around the country as a Member of Congress over the last 20 years. When I leave Congress, as I will at the end of this year, I want to make sure we have strong agricultural policies in place so that young people, such as my grandson John and my grandson Jay, if they make a decision to come back to the farm, will have an incentive to do so, and they will be able to provide a quality of life for their family very much like the quality of life they have today. Good agricultural policy will incentivize those young people to stay in rural America and on the farm, and I think this Farm bill does that.
There is no single piece of legislation that impacts as many people in my State as this one. I believe it is vitally important to the farmers, ranchers, and consumers of Georgia, as well as to those across this great Nation that we support this legislation.
In closing, let me say it has been my distinct honor to represent and work with the people, farmers, and ranchers of Georgia for 20 years. You provide the highest quality food, feed, and fiber in the world. Thanks for the opportunity to represent you in Congress and to be a member of what I think is an outstanding agricultural committee.
Madam President, I yield the floor.
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