02.04.14

Reaction Of Senator Patrick Leahy To Senate Passage Of The Farm Bill

‘A Bill That Will Strengthen Vermont, And A Bill That Bears Vermont’s Imprint’

[WASHINGTON (TUESDAY, Feb. 4, 2014) – The U.S. Senate Tuesday passed a long-overdue Farm Bill, in a vote of 68 to 32.  The House passed the Farm Bill agreement last week, and the bill now goes to the President’s desk.  Senator Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., says the President will sign it.  Leahy was a conferee in the House-Senate Farm Bill negotiations.  He is the most senior member of the Senate Agriculture Committee and a former chairman of the panel.  Leahy long has led in Congress on dairy policy, conservation initiatives and hunger relief, and he is the “father” of the national organic standards and labeling program.  The final steps the bill will take next also involve Leahy:  As Senate President Pro Tempore, Leahy and House Speaker John Boehner now will sign the engrossed official text of the bill before it is transmitted to the President for his signature. ]

“Vermont has a stake in every Farm Bill, and this Farm Bill again bears a firm Vermont imprint.  Its wide-ranging scope parallels Vermont’s interests and rural needs, in ways that are interlaced throughout Vermont’s economy.  This Farm Bill advances Vermont’s key agricultural, economic hunger prevention goals in ways that will be felt widely and deeply across our state.

“This is the seventh Farm Bill on which I‘ve been a conferee, and none has been more difficult than this one.  We passed it not once but twice before in the Senate, and it kept coming off the rails in the House in a series of missteps that bring to mind The Perils of Pauline.  These delays have burdened farmers and others with needless uncertainty.  Now those burdens will finally be lifted.

“This is a good Farm Bill for Vermont, for many reasons.  It’s a long, long list, but among the Vermont benefits are these:  We created a new dairy margin protection program which will be a vital safety net for Vermont’s hard-working and hard-pressed dairy farmers.  We have set up a new dairy product donation program -- a two-fer that will benefit farmers facing market gluts, and food banks needing to stock their shelves.  We headed off the far-deeper nutrition program cuts sought by an extremist faction in the House.  We help our home-grown organic sector to continue to rise to meet the challenge of growing consumer demand for their products.  We renew the REAP Zone program that has brought multi-millions of investment dollars to the Northeast Kingdom.  We establish the Leahy Gigabit Pilot Program to fund gigabit broadband projects in underserved rural areas like ours in Vermont.  We charter a new maple syrup research and marketing program to expand the markets for one of Vermont’s premier products.  We tie conservation requirements to crop insurance for the first time since 1996.  We strengthen healthy food initiatives to benefit children and all Americans.  And we renew the Forest Legacy and Community Forest programs that I created in earlier Farms Bills and that have been used well across our state, creating treasured community assets.”

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