Sen. Cochran hopeful Farm Bill agreement can be reached soon

By Erin Voegele | December 17, 2013

Congress has adjourned for the year, leaving the Farm Bill unfinished. However, lawmakers are expected to take up the legislation again in January. Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., ranking Republican on the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, released a statement Dec. 13 on the prospects of Congress completing a new five-year Farm Bill early next year.

“I’m pleased to say that we are making progress, but there are still decisions that lie ahead of us.  I am hopeful that on both sides of the aisle in both bodies, we can come together on a farm bill agreement that will reform and modernize programs, produce budget savings at the same time, and provide certainty about the government’s role to producers and consumers alike,” Cochran said.

According to the statement, Farm Bill negotiators are working towards producing an agreement that can be considered in January by the conference committee, and then both houses of Congress. “We have been working to reach an agreement on a new, five-year farm bill that we can take to the House and the Senate and, in collaboration and working through our differences, make progress and establish a framework for our agriculture sector to continue to contribute in an important way in the economic life of our nation,” Cochran said.

Earlier in the week, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack called on Congress to expedite passage of the Food Farm and Jobs bill. A fact sheet published by the USDA highlights many benefits of the Farm Bill’s research programs in strengthening agriculture and increasing business opportunity in rural America. Accord to the fact sheet, studies have indicated that every $1 invested in agriculture returns $20 to the economy.

 The fact sheet specifically addresses several programs, such as the Rural Energy for America Program, which has resulted in energy savings of more than 8.5 million megawatt-hours since 2009.

The BioPreferred Program is another Farm Bill program benefiting the economy. More than 1,000 products now carry the USDA’s Certified Biobased Product label, and nearly 100 separate categories of homegrown biobased products are prioritized for use by the Federal Government. For example, Yellowstone National Park currently uses biobased lubricants and cleaning products throughout its 2.2 million acres.

The Farm Bill also benefits energy programs. According to the USDA, more than 9,250 renewable energy projects are currently underway today as a result of USDA assistance, and the eight advanced biorefineries are being developed with loan guarantees provided under Farm Bill programs. In addition, more than 220 wood-to-energy projects are helping to find new uses for wood in renewable energy. Farm Bill funding is also supporting efforts with the Navy to produce advanced renewable marine and aviation fuels.

A full copy of the fact sheet can be downloaded from the USDA website.