Since the founding of the First State, agriculture has been a vital part of Delaware's economy. Today, agriculture remains at the heart of our state's economic activity. I am dedicated to securing a better future for Delaware's hardworking farmers and their families. The agriculture industry provides us with many benefits, including jobs, trade opportunities, land preservation, environmental benefits and food to feed families not just in Delaware, but also throughout the U.S. and around the world.
In Delaware, chickens outnumber people roughly three hundred to one. Our farmers grow quite a bit of corn and soy, much of which goes to feeding our chickens, as well as specialty crops like fruits and vegetables that help keep our families healthy. The Great Recession hit Delaware farms hard, yet the contributions from our farmers are all the more needed as our economy rebounds. We must make sure that our farmers receive adequate support from the federal government, so they thrive and grow.
It is also a priority of mine to continue enforcing land conservation policies, balanced with the preservation of the agricultural way of life. As the Senate continues to debate issues that impact Delaware's farming communities, please know that I will make every effort to protect this important industry.
International Trade and Exports
Delaware poultry farmers create more than $4.5 billion each year in economic activity and account for more than 50 percent of our state’s agricultural exports. Today, Delaware's chickens are exported to countries around the world. Ensuring that chickens grown and produced in our state can continue to be exported to these and other countries is a top priority of mine. During the 111th Congress, I worked with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to improve our trade relations with other countries. We were successful in addressing China and Mexico's trade barriers that kept Delmarva poultry out of these important markets and I have continued to advocate for a level playing field for our poultry industry in other markets across the world. More recently I worked with colleagues to successfully secure provisions in the African Growth and Opportunity Act that will help to bring down South Africa’s trade barriers against our chickens. I will continue to advocate for good trade policies regarding Delaware's agriculture industry so our chickens can be enjoyed by families around the world.
Every few years, federal agriculture and food assistance laws are reauthorized through the "Farm Bill," a large bill that deals with policies overseen by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Farm Bill provides a crucial support system for our nation’s farmers. Last year, Congress passed the 2014 Farm Bill and it was signed by the president. The bill saves the federal government $23 billion over 10 years, eliminates wasteful spending, and provides farmers with a critical safety net. The most significant agricultural policy reform in decades, the bill strengthens crop insurance, promotes conservation compliance, eliminates direct payments to farmers, boosts agricultural job initiatives, and supports critical food and nutrition programs for low-income Americans.
I voted in favor of the 2014 Farm Bill because it reduces our deficit and gives long-term certainty to the 16 million Americans and nearly 30,000 Delawareans working in agricultural. The bill also encourages farmers to grow - and people to eat - healthier foods. At a time when a third of Americans are obese, we should be doing all we can to support healthy foods, and this bill moves us in that direction. The bill includes federal support for programs that help farmers bring fresh fruits and vegetables - including watermelons, which we grow in abundance during the summers in Delaware - to market. This program and programs like the Farm to School program, which helps bring fresh fruits and vegetables to our students, benefits both farmers and consumers.
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