Opening Statement Of Senator Leahy At The 2018 Farm Bill Conference
I am glad we are convening today to reconcile our differences and enact a meaningful Farm Bill. Chairman Roberts and Ranking Member Stabenow, thank you for your commitment to a bipartisan process in crafting the Senate Farm Bill. As a former Chairman of this Committee, I know how much work goes into crafting a bill of this scope and substance. I have every expectation that if we work in the same bipartisan spirit that has guided the first seven Farm Bill conferences that I have been a part, we will produce a bill that is good for farmers and the nation. And a bill that every one of us can support.
A Farm Bill affects every American family. It is crucial to our economy, our environment, and our national security interests in the food security and health of the American people. I am proud to once again be a conferee and an advocate for a Farm Bill that we can all be proud of.
A Farm Bill sets priorities and reflects our values. America’s farmers are struggling with both weather and trade disturbances. Vermont dairy farmers are grappling with a crisis that has driven many out of business. This bill must provide added security for the family farms that are the backbone of our rural communities. The dairy improvements in this bill are a recognition that dairy farmers are struggling, I am thankful both bills build on the significant improvements that I fought for as part of the Bipartisan Budget Act that we passed in February.
This conference must also ensure that our nutrition programs remain strong and accessible for those who need them. The Farm Bill must continue to ensure that Americans can provide healthy food for their families and combat food insecurity here and abroad with programs like McGovern-Dole. I believe the bipartisan Senate bill fulfills these goals. While the House bill would only exacerbate hunger in this country and worldwide.
This Farm Bill provides tangible support for economic development to address the unique challenges and needs faced by rural communities. I am proud of the efforts this bill makes to improve the lives of rural citizens everywhere by investing in rural community infrastructure and facilities. The Senate bill also takes meaningful steps to fight the opioid epidemic and expands much needed access to affordable capital for small and growing rural businesses.
Our rural communities also depend on the conservation title that serves our nation’s farmers and working lands, and also addresses water quality challenges facing rural communities across the country. For our farmers and our rural communities we must ensure that the final bill maintains the vital funding for conservation. I am thankful that both the House and Senate bills provide strong funding for the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program and the improvements I had sought to protect farms threatened by development. The anti-environmental riders included in the House bill are a threat to the health of our water, lands, forests, and human health everywhere. These provisions do not reflect our nation’s values or respect our future generations.
Another value and priority that our Farm Bill must support is America’s organic industry, which now totals $50 billion a year and growing. We must continue investments in organic research, certification, and enforcement that allow consumers to trust the USDA organic seal and ensure that American farmers who have invested so much can continue to be successful.
The Senate Farm Bill is bipartisan, thoughtful, and fair. I hope that we can move quickly in this conference to make the final bill even better and provide our farmers with the certainty they desperately need before the current Farm Bill expires in 25 days. I am committed to working with every member of this conference to arrive at the best possible final bill that will help farmers, families, and rural communities.
David Carle: 202-224-3693
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