Friday, May 9, 2008


U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Ranking Republican Member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, today announced key negotiators have reached an agreement on the farm bill conference report. Leaders will seek signatures on the report language from members of the Senate-House Farm Bill Conference Committee this week. Sen. Chambliss championed several provisions in the bill including a measure to exempt IRS-approved education and retirement accounts from counting against the asset limit for food stamps.

“This is a tremendous victory for all Georgians from the producers who grow the food we eat, to those seeking assistance to feed their families,” said Sen. Chambliss. “Our goal was to take the most successful components of the 2002 farm bill and incorporate input from producers across the country to improve current law, and we did just that. This farm bill strengthens our nation’s food security, protects the livelihood of our producers and provides investments in nutrition, conservation and energy. Americans all over the country deserve a new farm bill and we have written a bipartisan and fiscally responsible plan that merits support of the entire Congress.”

Sen. Chambliss highlighted the following reforms and improvements to be included in the report:

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.

The Senate-House Farm Bill Conference Committee is expected to approve the report this week, before going to the full Senate and House for consideration next week. Upon passage, the conference report will be sent to the President for his signature to become law.

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