Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), On Passage of The Senate Farm Bill, S. 954

Across Vermont’s food system, businesses are starting, expanding, and creating good jobs. Ever more local food is available in stores, restaurants, and institutions throughout the state and in greater supply, for more months of the year. Important programs are reaching more food insecure Vermonters with fresh, healthy food.  Thanks to the Senate Farm Bill we will continue to see these improvements in Vermont and across the country

Nationwide agriculture supports 16 million jobs. In Vermont our farms and private forestlands play a large role in our economy and our state’s cultural and historical identity. Iconic images of Vermont’s farms and forests bring millions of visitors to the state each year, supporting our local communities.

The 2013 Farm Bill that the Senate passed today will continue to support our farmers and rural communities, while also reforming agricultural programs to save taxpayers billions of dollars. I am encouraged that the Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow and our Ranking Member Thad Cochran have been able to bring the Senate together to pass a bipartisan Farm Bill. A Farm Bill that saves more than $23 billion.  A bill that includes many compromises. This bill provides an important framework to help farmers and ranchers in all regions of the country manage their risks more effectively, especially our country’s dairy farmers, who strongly support the dairy provisions in the Senate passed Farm Bill. 

I must also thank the Chairwoman for her assistance with my gigabit broadband pilot amendment. This small pilot effort is an important addition to the bill and the broadband program and will help to ensure that the taxpayer dollars we are investing in networks will not become obsolete within the next few years.  Gigabit Internet is spreading to cities across the country, and this pilot will allow USDA to test out investment in gigabit networks in rural areas on a pilot basis. The next generation gigabit networks will transform everything from the reliability of the electrical grid, to education and healthcare in rural America.  We cannot leave rural America behind in the dust while the rest of the country moves into this next stage of the digital era.

I urge the U.S. House of Representatives to follow suit by bringing a Farm Bill up for debate as soon as possible. Time  already is running short for us to bring Senate and House bills to a conference committee to work out the vast differences and arrive at a compromise Farm Bill that can be signed into law prior to the Sept. 30 expiration of the current bill.  Farmers face enough uncertainty in their work and do not need Congress to compound the variables with which they must contend by once again delaying final action on a Farm Bill.  Our farmers and the American people deserve a new Farm Bill and a balanced bill like the one we have passed in the Senate today, a bill which supports our nutrition, conservation, rural development, and farm programs. Our farmers cannot afford to be kept in limbo any longer by congressional gridlock.

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