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Thune: Farm Bill Conference Report Finalized

Congress Expected to Vote on Farm Bill Next Week

May 8, 2008

Washington, D.C. —  Senator John Thune, a Member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, today announced an important step toward bringing the 2008 Farm Bill across the finish line. Farm Bill conferees agreed to the farm bill conference report language last night, according to Thune.

"It has been a long time coming, but I'm pleased that we finally have a Farm Bill - and all indications are that many of the provisions for South Dakota that I was able to add as a Member of the Senate Agriculture Committee have remained intact, for the most part, in the final farm bill. I look forward to reviewing more of the details as they become available before I cast my vote next week," said Thune.

Sen. Thune highlighted the following reforms and improvements as announced by members of the Senate Agriculture Committee:

  • Commodities: Eliminates the "three entity rule" and implements reformed payment caps for commodity program benefits; provides producers of eligible commodities an option to participate in a revenue-based counter-cyclical program; includes newly created disaster assistance program; maintains non-trade distorting direct payments; and rebalances rates for the counter-cyclical program and non-recourse marketing loan program.

  • Payment Limitations: Only producers with less than $500,000 in off-farm income or $750,000 in overall would be eligible to receive direct payments. Maximum direct payments would remain at $40,000 per person and $80,000 per couple. The new income limit test does not apply for price supports CCC grain loans and counter-cyclical payments, which are earned when grain prices drop below a certain threshold. Conservation payments are limited to individuals with adjusted gross incomes of $1 million, unless two-thirds of that income comes from agriculture or forestry.

  • Conservation: Provides $4 billion in new funding for conservation programs, including investments in the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, the Farmland Protection Program, and the new Conservation Stewardship Program; and reauthorizes the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).

  • Rural Development: Improves the Rural Utilities Service Broadband Loan and Loan Guarantee Program to deploy broadband internet service to rural America; provides $120 million in funding for the large backlog of water and waste water projects; provides $15 million for the Rural Microenterprise Assistance Program to help assist small businesses in rural America.

  • Research: Creates a new National Institute of Food and Agriculture to increase the visibility of competitive agricultural research; provides $230 million in mandatory funding for the specialty crop research initiative; and $78 million in mandatory funding for organic research.

  • Energy: Invests $320 million for new loan guarantee program for the development and construction of commercial-scale biorefineries; provides $300 million in the Bioenergy Program to provide assistance to biofuel production plants for the purchase of feedstocks; provides $118 million for biomass research and development efforts; reauthorizes and provides $250 million for grants and loan guarantees for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects; and authorizes a new program, the Biomass Crop Assistance Program, which originated as Senator Thune's Biofuels Innovation Program, to help producers transition to new energy crops for biofuel production.

  • Livestock: Incorporates an industry compromise that provides for mandatory COOL for meat, chicken, produce, peanuts, pecans and macadamia nuts and addresses several of the implementation cost concerns; incorporates an industry compromise to encourage the interstate shipment of State inspected meat; and makes arbitration voluntary for livestock and poultry producers.

"I expect the final details, language and conference report to be released by the weekend," said Thune.

The Senate-House Farm Bill Conference Committee is expected to approve the report this week, before going to the full Senate and House for consideration next week. Upon passage, the conference report will be sent to the President for his consideration.