Tom Carper, U.S. Senator for Delaware

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

Seventy percent of our state’s agricultural exports come from the poultry industry. Today, Delaware’s chickens are exported to countries around the world. Making sure 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 advocated for a level playing field for our poultry industry in other markets across the world. 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.

Farm Bill

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 was unable to pass a long-term extension of the expiring 2008 Farm Bill – and instead agreed to a one year extension.  If a long-term Farm Bill is not passed by the end of this year, this nation will revert to depression-era agriculture policy, including costly subsidies and price controls. This would create harm and uncertainty for farmers and growers who are currently trying to plan for next year's growing season.

In June of this year, I joined 65 of my colleagues in the Senate to pass a long-term extension of the Farm Bill, the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2013.  This legislation contains the most significant agriculture policy reform in decades, saving the federal government $23 billion over 10 years by streamlining agricultural and nutrition programs to make them more efficient while cracking down on fraud and abuse. The legislation boosts agriculture job programs and improves conservation programs so we will have a healthier environment for food production and for public health.  This Farm Bill also encourages farmers to grow and people to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables by supporting programs that help farmers bring fresh fruits and vegetables –fruits like watermelons, which we grow a lot of during the summers in Delaware– to market and programs like the Farm to School program, which helps bring fresh fruits and vegetables to our nation's students. 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. This bill also includes specific provisions that I was proud to sponsor to help a wide variety of folks in Delaware, from poultry growers on Delmarva to conservationists who work to protect the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

The 2013 Farm Bill as passed by the Senate – while not perfect - is a common-sense legislation that saves precious taxpayer dollars, encourages healthier lifestyles, and helps our farmers, the lifeblood, literally, of this country. Unfortunately, the House seemed determined to ignore the bipartisan effort of the Senate and instead pushed through a dramatically scaled-back, ideological Farm Bill.  I believe the House bill fails to protect the neediest and threatens the passage of comprehensive reforms that will help reduce our deficit.

While the current Farm Bill expired on September 30, 2013, the majority of the provisions were extended beyond the deadline to give Congress more time to reach an agreement on a long-term bill.  I call on members of both parties and both chambers to work in good faith – as we've done for almost a half-century on agricultural issues – to put in place a comprehensive Farm Bill that includes the vital agricultural and nutrition reforms we desperately need. It is time to stop playing politics with our food and farm policy.

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