When I became Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee in January of this year, I had one primary goal: to ensure that America’s farmers and ranchers have the policies in place that they need to feed, fuel, and clothe the nation while ensuring stability and consistency for farmers, ranchers, consumers, markets, and rural communities. After all, agriculture is the foundation of our livelihood and the lifeblood of rural America. And, while our work will never be done, we are off to a great start.
House Overwhelmingly Approves Food, Conservation and Energy Act Conference Report
WASHINGTON - Today, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the conference report for the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008, a groundbreaking bill that invests in improved nutrition, conservation, renewable energy and farm programs and includes significant reforms.
With the support of more than 550 farm, specialty crop, conservation, nutrition, consumer and religious organizations, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, Ranking Member Bob Goodlatte, members of the House Agriculture Committee, and members of the conference committee outlined the conference report’s new historic new investments in priorities important to all Americans.
“The Food, Conservation and Energy Act makes essential improvements in the food, farm and conservation programs that meet the needs of Americans in cities, suburbs and rural communities nationwide,” Chairman Peterson said. “This bill will help working American families struggling with high food prices and will ensure that our farmers and ranchers can continue to provide a safe, abundant, homegrown supply of food and fiber.”
“Agriculture policy is essential to the lives of every American and it is important that the policy we formulate is responsible, effective, and at a low cost to the taxpayer and this bill meets those requirements. This farm bill contains more reform than any farm bill in history. Although we call it a farm bill, farm programs only account for roughly 12 percent of this bill. And as a part of the total federal budget, farm programs account for only one-quarter of one percent--a two-fold decrease from the 2002 Farm Bill. This fiscally responsible farm bill will still allow America's farmers and ranchers to produce the safest, most reliable, and most affordable food supply in the world,” said Ranking Member Bob Goodlatte.
Important highlights of the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 (H.R. 2419)
· Invests $10.361 billion in nutrition programs, providing needed funding for food banks, improving and expanding access to the food stamp program by reforming benefit rules to cover rising food costs
· Devotes more than $1.3 billion in funding for organic agriculture, fruit and vegetable programs, and local food networks
o Includes a new title dedicated to the needs of specialty crops and organic agriculture, including nutrition, research, pest management and trade promotion programs
· Extends and provides $7.9 billion of new funding for popular conservation programs, including the Environmental Quality Incentive Program, Farm Protection Program, Wetlands Reserve Program, and the Conservation Reserve Program
· Invests an additional $1 billion in renewable energy research, development and production i
o Encourages the transition from corn-based ethanol to cellulosic ethanol by reducing the tax credit for corn ethanol and increasing the credit for cellulosic ethanol production
· Reduces the income cap for farm program payments by 80%, preventing those with non-farm income above $500,000 from receiving any farm program payments and imposing a new income limit on farm income above $750,000 per year. It also requires direct attribution, closing loopholes that allow people to avoid payment limits by receiving money through multiple businesses
· Requires mandatory Country of Origin Labeling for fruit, vegetables and meat
· Rebalances loan rates and target prices among commodities, achieving greater regional equity.
· Offers farmers participating in commodity programs with a choice between the traditional price protection safety net and new, market-oriented revenue coverage payments
The conference report and related materials are available on the Committee’s website.