Statements and Speeches
Given our nation’s budget deficits, everything we do around here needs to be focused on how we can get better results for less money. I’m here to say this farm bill, when compares to ones before it, takes great strides toward reforming a process that was too often criticized as regressive and wasteful. All told, this bill would save the federal government $23.6 billion over the next ten years compared to current spending levels. It eliminates wasteful spending by getting rid of the so-called direct payments program, which too often gave money to farmers even when farmers didn’t grow anything on their own land.
But the bill is also humane and fair to our farmers. Instead of continuing the direct payments program, this bill institutes a new crop insurance program, a long sought-after goal by those of us wanting to make progressive changes to the farm bill. Instead of giving money to farmers that sometimes don’t even grow a single crop in a year, the bill only helps farmers when they actually experience a loss on crops they are actually growing. In the end, the new crop insurance program in this bill still would give farmers the security they need to keep farming, but at a much lesser cost to the American taxpayer.
Another thing this bill focuses on is nutrition, and how we can encourage farmers to grow – and people to eat – more healthful foods as part of their daily diets. 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 support for 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, which benefits both farmers and consumers, and programs like the Farm to School program, which helps bring fresh fruits and vegetables to our students.
We also talk a lot around here about reducing our dependence on foreign oil. This bill also does that. It includes legislation that I joined Senator Stabenow in introducing earlier this year that would support the expansion of products made in this country from bio-based materials like renewable chemicals made from plant material, which can be used to displace petroleum in our plastics. This not only reduces our reliance on foreign oil, it also protects our environment and creates new jobs in local communities throughout our country.
Another key investment that this bill continues, although at a somewhat reduced level from what we saw in the 2008 Farm Bill, is the bill’s investment in conservation. Conservation and the preservation of our agricultural lands are key to the future of agriculture in every state, but are especially key to a small state like Delaware. These conservation investments are also particularly critical to regions like the Chesapeake Bay, which Delawareans are working hard to restore and protect.
In Delaware, we have about 300 chickens for every person. About 60 percent of the cost of raising a chicken is the cost of feed, and in recent years, the cost of feed, including the cost of corn, has risen dramatically. These rising costs have placed a strain on the poultry industry.
That is why, along with Senator Boozman of Arkansas, I have introduced an amendment to this bill that makes a priority at USDA research to improve the efficiency, digestibility, and nutritional value of feed for poultry and livestock, including corn, soybean meal, grains and grain byproducts. By improving the feed that is used to raise our chickens, we can provide the poultry and livestock industries with a greater variety of feed choices to use in their operations, which I hope will ultimately help provide some relief to these producers who rely so heavily on these commodities in their operations.
Again, let me go back to where I started: How do we get better results for less money? I think about that every day that I’m here, Mr. President. This bill isn’t perfect. No bill is. But compared to previous farm bills, this bill is moving us in the right direction. It saves money. It encourages healthier living. And it helps our farmers, the lifeblood, literally, of this country. I urge its passage.