Contains Senator's ESA landowner provisions
Washington, DC - Idaho Senator Mike Crapo supported the 2008 Farm Bill Conference Report when it was passed by the Senate today by a vote of 81 to 15. Crapo spoke on the Senate floor in favor of the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 as it would provide long-term certainty to farm families, enhance food security, enable environmental improvements, and expand energy opportunities.
"At a time when people around the world are struggling to deal with recent natural disasters and ensure that their families have the food they need, we need swift enactment of a Farm Bill that will provide some long-term certainty for farm families as they continue to feed the world's hungry," said Crapo.
In preparation for the Farm Bill, Crapo held 23 Farm Bill listening sessions throughout Idaho to get input from Idahoans on what is needed in the new Farm Bill. He utilized this input to advocate for Idaho priorities in working with his fellow members of the Senate Agriculture Committee and the Senate Finance Committee in crafting the legislation. Crapo worked to obtain the inclusion of a number of provisions in the new Farm Bill of importance to Idaho communities:
• The tax title of the legislation includes language from the Senator's Endangered Species Recovery Act that establishes a tax deduction for the cost of actions to implement site-specific management measures included in recovery plans under the Endangered Species Act.
• Idaho specialty crop producers would benefit from the unprecedented more than $2 billion investment in programs important to specialty crop producers, including $466 million for Specialty Crop Block Grants that assist with marketing, research, promotion and other efforts to increase the competitiveness of specialty crops.
• The legislation also contains significant assistance for producers impacted by disaster, including new assistance for aquaculture producers impacted by drought and assistance for ranchers utilizing federal grazing permits who are impacted by a loss of grazing due to fire.
• More than $4 billion in new spending would be provided for conservation programs, which enable landowners to meet environmental goals that benefit everyone. Crapo, who serves as Ranking Member of the Senate Agriculture Subcommittee on Rural Revitalization, Conservation, Forestry and Credit, and assisted with crafting the conservation title, has often said that no federal policy contributes more to improve our environment than the Farm Bill conservation programs.
• An estimated 95 percent of the world's consumers live beyond our borders, and the bill would assist with reaching those consumers by expanding foreign market opportunities through the inclusion of $200 million annually for the Market Access Program. The bill also seeks to better ensure adherence to softwood lumber trade commitments through the inclusion of a softwood lumber importer declaration program.
• The legislation continues and expands support for Idaho commodity producers, including barley, dairy, pulse crop, sugar, wheat, and wool producers. Idaho's agriculture industry is a more than $5 billion industry and an essential part of Idaho's economy.
• Infrastructure in Rural America benefits from this legislation. Small rural communities today face the task of complying with many federal, state, and local environmental regulations but lack sufficient resources to meet these standards. Through changes to SEARCH grants in this legislation, rural communities with populations of 2,500 or less will have greater, more streamlined access to funding to assist with water and wastewater infrastructure projects.
• The Farm Bill incorporates language from the Biodiesel Education and Expansion Act of 2007, S. 1791, which Crapo introduced with Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) to reauthorize the Biodiesel Education Program, utilized by the University of Idaho for biodiesel efforts, with $5 million year in mandatory funding. The bill also includes a new, temporary cellulosic biofuels production tax credit for up to $1.01 per gallon, available through December 31, 2012, provides $330 million for the Bioenergy Program to provide incentives for expanding production of advanced biofuels, and would establish a sugar-to-ethanol program.
• The legislation would also expand the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, which provides domestically-grown fruits and vegetables to students as healthy snacks and educates students on the importance of eating healthy, to every state. Crapo worked to obtain the funding necessary to include Idaho schools in the program and has pressed for the continuation of the program in Idaho and expansion of the program to additional states and schools.
When speaking on the floor, Crapo discussed some of the criticisms of the bill stating that while some criticize the bill for expending too much limited federal funding on agriculture, it is important to note that the bulk of the funding in the Farm Bill goes to nutrition programs. In fact, more than 70 percent of the Farm Bill funding would go toward nutrition programs, with less than 15 percent going to commodity programs and less than 10 percent going to conservation funding. Also, he addressed the criticisms of the bill not being reform minded enough and not being strict enough on payments limits, and noted that the conference report would eliminate the Triple Entity Rule and change the current Adjusted Gross Income limit from $2.5 million to $500,000 nonfarm or $750,000 farm income. These are considerable reforms that cannot be overlooked.
"This comprehensive legislation with fifteen titles covers a wide range of important policy matters beyond traditional farm support," said Crapo. "The breadth and depth of this legislation reaches so many people's lives that everyone in America - not just those involved in farm country - should be glad we've been able to find this agreement that has enabled us to get a conference report between the House and the Senate."
Prior to the Senate's vote, the 2008 Farm Bill Conference Report was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday by a vote of 318 to 106. Additionally, the House and Senate passed a temporary extension of the current Farm Bill until Friday, May 23, 2008, to provide time to address a possible Presidential veto of the bill. As a member of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees, Crapo had a role in crafting previous Farm Bills, including the 2002 and 1996 Farm Bills.