Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), House-Senate Farm Bill Conference Committee
At long last, we are convening to reconcile our differences and enact a meaningful Farm Bill. I hope we will work in the same bipartisan spirit that has guided every Farm Bill conference of which I have been a part – and there have been seven of them since 1981.
It has been 13 months since the last Farm Bill expired. I hear from farmers and rural communities in Vermont every day, telling me how imperative it is that we overcome our differences. This is not only a Farm Bill; it is a trade bill, a hunger bill, a conservation bill, a reform bill, an innovation bill, a deficit reduction bill, and above all, a job creation bill. The Senate passed a bipartisan bill through compromise, and in doing so, we ensured a Farm Bill that supports the nation’s farmers and rural communities, alleviates hunger, reforms commodity programs, ends trade distorting policies, creates jobs, and saves taxpayers $24 billion dollars.
On dairy, farmers across the country support a margin insurance program, but only one working in tandem with a market stabilization program, as we have in the Senate bill. Farmers have not forgotten the dairy crisis of 2009 and they know that an insurance program alone is not enough. Without stabilization, we will cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of additional dollars and virtually guarantee another dairy crisis that will put small farms out of business. I look forward to working with everyone here to ensure that the final Farm Bill protects both dairy farmers and consumers from the extreme price fluctuations that have driven so family farms out of business.
The American people also want to see us deliver nutrition programs that continue to serve all Americans in need. This is a key part of enacting a strong Farm Bill for our country, as reflected in the bipartisan Senate Farm Bill. I hope that we can find common ground as we work on a nutrition title that will help provide the basic needs for struggling Americans rather than advocating for drastic changes in the eligibility requirements.
The Senate bill continues the shared responsibility of farmers and taxpayers that working lands remain productive. Farmers benefiting from generous federally supported crop insurance need to continue the simple conservation practices they are already following.
I must add that as the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I believe that nothing in this bill should limit the authority of the Secretary to protect our farmers from deceptive business practices; nor should it in any way limit the authority of states to protect the health and welfare of its citizens by adopting strong agricultural standards.
Producers around the country need certainty about the outlook for agriculture. They need to know that this Farm Bill supports all of our nation’s farmers, both large and small, including those involved in organic agriculture or those considering transitioning to organic. As I think back over six Farm Bills, I am optimistic that we can once again forge a compromise and craft a good bill that can become law. Make no mistake: farming is part of our national security. Keeping American agriculture strong and vibrant is at the core of this bill, but this bill does so much more. I hope we will all join together to roll up our sleeves and get to work on a reasonable reform-minded Farm Bill.
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David Carle: 202-224-3693
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