November 21, 2007
A Farm Bill Worth Fighting For
By Senator Tom Harkin
As Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, I was very pleased when my committee colleagues and I approved the Senate's version of the new farm bill without one negative vote last month.
Our bill – titled The Food and Energy Security Act – is a forward-looking, fiscally responsible measure that continues strong farm income protection while providing critical new investments in agricultural conservation, renewable energy, nutrition assistance and rural development initiatives.
In my view, a key focus of this new legislation must be promoting new economic and income opportunities for farm families and others in rural communities. The bill improves farm income protection in several ways, including a new Average Crop Revenue program, which farmers could choose in order to obtain protection against yield loss, in addition to the price protection that has been a traditional feature of USDA farm programs.
The new farm bill will boost economic growth, jobs and quality of life in rural communities in Iowa and across the nation. In particular, it has excellent new initiatives to help restore our nation’s energy security by promoting biofuels and other renewable energy sources and rural energy initiatives.
The Senate farm bill also makes major new investments that will help farmers and ranchers conserve and enhance the resources on their land by saving soil, increasing water quality, conserving wetlands and restoring wildlife habitat.
Our legislation will also allow low-income families in Iowa and across America put more food on the table, and it will help improve the diets and health of kids by providing access to more fruits and vegetables in our schools.
Unfortunately, the farm bill’s progress stalled when it came up for debate in the full Senate. The leadership of the minority party refused to focus on the farm bill itself and instead tried to make it a vehicle for amendments dealing with a slew of controversial issues that are not directly related to agriculture.
To make matters worse, President Bush has already threatened to veto both the Senate and House versions of the farm bill, even though he has not yet seen their final content. I worry that the president is pushing for confrontation instead of cooperation – and heading toward a train wreck at the end of this session of Congress that will jeopardize legislation needed to move our country forward. Our new farm bill must be spared this fate.
We must continue to fight to get this strong, bipartisan farm bill through the Senate and enacted into law. Our fight will continue today, tomorrow and as long as it takes to get the job done.