Supports Provisions for Specialty Crops and Chesapeake Bay Watershed Conservation
May 15 2008
WASHINGTON – Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) supported the passage of a farm bill today, citing $188 million in mandatory funding for Chesapeake Bay Watershed conservation; investments in clean, domestic energy sources; and specific provisions that will benefit Delaware’s $1 billion agriculture sector.
“This farm bill, while not perfect, helps address the needs of small agricultural states like Delaware over the next decade,” said Sen. Carper. “As a state with an important specialty crop industry, Delaware will benefit from support for specialty-crop farmers and farmers hurt by weather disasters. In addition, funds for Chesapeake Bay Watershed conservation and the development of advanced biofuels will benefit Delawareans.”
Sen. Carper highlighted key provisions in the bill that will directly benefit conservation efforts in the valuable Chesapeake Bay Watershed which includes much of Delaware. One provision recognizes Delaware, as well as New York and West Virginia, as key “headwater states” for the Chesapeake region, an advantageous designation currently limited to Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia. This legislative change makes farmers in Delaware eligible to receive special funding set aside specifically for conservation of the Chesapeake region.
A second provision provides unprecedented flexibility for Chesapeake Bay Watershed conservation funding to address its unique environmental and conservation needs with $188 million in mandatory funding. This funding, along with the $7.9 billion increase in overall conservation funding, will keep farmers farming and protect them from having to sell off farmland for commercial development.
The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (H.R. 2419) includes desperately needed fiscally responsible reform to ensure that federal support goes to the farmers who need it most. Farmers who have an adjusted gross income of more than $750,000 would be barred from receiving direct payment subsidies, but would still be eligible for other types of commodity support. Under current law, no income cap exists, allowing the distribution of federal farm aid to extremely wealthy farmers.
“I think it is important to get back to the original intent of crop subsidies which is to help the family farmers. We’ve seen too many instances of multi-millionaires receiving federal subsidies, and in this time of economic hardship we need to make sure that we deliver crop subsidies to the farmers that need them the most,” said Sen. Carper. “While I believe the income caps in this bill may still be too generous, this is good first step towards modernizing our nation’s farm subsidy program.”
The farm bill provides financial assistance to producers and exporters of specialty crops, such as the nursery crops, watermelons, potatoes, beans, strawberries, spinach and cantaloupes grown in Delaware. Funding for the program is increased from the current level of $2 million a year up to $9 million annually by 2012.
Sen. Carper applauded the inclusion of a permanent disaster assistance trust fund, which provides immediate aid to farmers suffering crop-loss from flooding, fires or other natural disasters.
The senator also highlighted important financial incentives that benefit Delaware industries seeking to develop and commercialize advanced biofuels, such as cellulosic ethanol. Advanced biofuels have greater energy content than corn ethanol, require less fossil fuels and are critical to reducing our dependence on foreign oil and combating global warming.
In Delaware, the DuPont Corporation is developing a high-energy advanced biofuel called biobutanol and General Motors has partnered with the biotechnology firm Coskata to produce ethanol from virtually any organic matter, including old tires and garbage.
“These are the technologies that will drive a sustainable energy future for America based on clean, domestic energy sources,” Sen. Carper said. “Funding for advanced biofuel programs in the farm bill will help industries in Delaware and across the nation get us father away from dirty, foreign energy sources.”
Specifically, the farm bill provides $320 million in funding for commercial-scale biorefineries for advanced biofuels and $300 million in mandatory funding to produce advanced biofuels, including biodiesel and cellulosic biofuels.
Sen. Carper also strongly supports key provisions of the farm bill that will expand and update the national food stamp program. The bill includes more than $10 billion over 10 years, nationwide, to increase participation in nutrition programs, including $7.8 billion for the Food Stamp Program, $1.26 billion for the Emergency Food Assistance Program and $1 billion for the free Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program, which is targeted to schools with high shares of lower income students.
The bill passed the Senate 81-15 and was agreed to by the House of Representatives on May 14, 2008, also with a veto-proof majority of 318-106. It will now be sent to the President to be signed into law.