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Senate Farm Bill Good for South Dakota

Thune's Provisions and Amendments Adopted by Senate Agriculture Committee

October 25, 2007

Washington, D.C. —  Today the Senate Agriculture Committee continued its work on the 2007 Farm Bill. Senator Thune, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, successfully persuaded his Senate Agriculture Committee colleagues to include every one of his proposals and amendments in the bill.

"Every one of my amendments adopted by the Committee makes this farm bill better for all South Dakotans. The 2007 Farm Bill is critically important to the future of South Dakota's family farms and South Dakota's agriculture-dependent economy," said Thune. "This bill builds on the success of the 2002 Farm Bill I helped draft with serving on the House Agriculture Committee, and should continue to move South Dakota's food, fiber and now fuel producers forward."
The following is a list of Senator Thune's amendments that were adopted by the Senate Agriculture Committee during consideration of the 2007 Farm Bill:
  • FSA Office Closure Amendment
    Thune's amendment would prevent the closing of "Critical Access FSA County Offices." Critical Access FSA County Offices are defined as county FSA offices that were proposed for closure during Calendar Year 2007. Offices that were proposed for closure during 2007 and are in close proximity of another FSA office, or have zero full-time equivalent employees would still be allowed to close under this amendment. Critical Access FSA County Offices would remain open for the life of the 2007 Farm Bill (five years) unless Congress approves of the closures. The House-passed Farm Bill includes a 1-year moratorium on all FSA office closures with the exception of those offices with zero employees.

  • Loan Deficiency Payments Amendment
    Senator Thune's amendment preserves a critical component of the family farm safety net. In particular, this amendment removed a potentially harmful requirement in the Committee's bill that would negatively affect all grain producers by requiring that they sell their crop at the time of claiming an LDP. By establishing this new requirement, producers would have lost a valuable marketing tool that allows them to sell their crops in response to market signals, not according to government rules. After an intense debate with USDA representatives and Members of the Senate Agriculture Committee in which Senator Thune successfully defended America's agriculture producers, Senator Thune's amendment was accepted by the full committee.

  • E10 Blend Wall Amendment
    Senator Thune's amendment is a "Sense of the Senate" Resolution that describes the importance of intermediate blends of ethanol in non-flex fuel vehicles. More importantly, this amendment directs the U.S. Department of Agriculture to work with the Department of Transportation, Department of Energy, and Environmental Protection Agency in approving higher blends of ethanol fuel within one year of the successful completion of all necessary parts compatibility and environmental studies. This resolution also directs the U.S. Department of Agriculture to conduct a study on the rural economic impacts of the E10 blend wall and of increasing the demand for ethanol in general. This study would examine the impact on rural economic activity and job creation if the demand for ethanol is constrained to the E10 blend market and E85 infrastructure and transportation infrastructure continues to expand at current pace. The study would be submitted to the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee within 180 days after the enactment of this bill.

  • Native American Nutrition Tribal Assistance Amendment
    This amendment would authorize $5 million per year, for the life of the 2007 Farm Bill, for the purchase and distribution of traditional, locally-grown food produced by Native American farmers, ranchers and producers.

The following is a list of Senator Thune's other provisions that were included in the Committee's base bill:
  • Biofuels Innovation Program
    Last May, Senator Thune introduced a bipartisan first-of-its-kind program to provide producer incentives for growing energy dedicated crops like switchgrass and fast growing trees, in conjunction with the construction of nearby biorefineries. This program would provide a cost-share payment and per-acre rental payment to producers who have committed to growing energy-dedicated crops for a local biorefinery. This program would also provide a per-ton payment to farmers for collecting, storing, and transporting biomass (such as corn cobs) to cellulosic ethanol plants. In total, this program will provide almost $160 million to producers to jumpstart the cellulosic ethanol industry. The per-ton payment alone would incentivize almost 60 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol production. Senator Thune's biofuels bill, which provides incentives and tools to encourage sustainable and rapid development of cellulosic ethanol, is the nucleus of both the House passed farm bill and now the Senate version. Above all, this program will help to jumpstart the next generation of our nation's ethanol production which will less our dependence on foreign sources of oil.

  • Stronger Mandatory COOL Language
    On October 3, 2007, Senator Thune requested that the House-passed COOL language be strengthened to clarify that all categories of red meat are required to be labeled. At Senator Thune's request, the Agriculture Committee's bill corrected a potentially fatal flaw to the House-passed COOL provisions that will make implementing mandatory COOL clear, concise, and beyond legal challenge. Thanks to Senator Thune's efforts on the Senate Agriculture Committee, the implementation of mandatory COOL will be clear, concise, and beyond legal challenge.

  • Sun Grant Initiative
    The Agriculture Committee's bill includes $25 million in mandatory funding for the Sun Grant Initiative, which is coordinated by South Dakota State University. For months, Senator Thune has been working with members of the Senate Agriculture Committee to underscore the important renewable fuels research taking place at South Dakota State University and four other Universities across the country through the Sun Grant Initiative. This provision would provide much needed mandatory funding for the Sun Grant Initiative, while reauthorizing this program through the life of the farm bill. Under the Senate 2007 Farm Bill, the Sun Grant Initiative would also be authorized for annual appropriations up to $70 million per year through 2012. The House-passed bill includes $0 of mandatory funding for the Sun Grant Initiative.

  • Conservation
    The Committee's bill includes continuing in this farm bill with the 39.2 million acre Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) cap Senator Thune fought for when he helped draft the 2002 Farm Bill. Several of Senator Thune's recommendations to strengthen and reauthorize the Wetlands Reserve Program and Grasslands Reserve Program were included in the Committee's Conservation Title.

  • Stronger Sodsaver Provision
    After months of working with the Senate Agriculture Committee, Senator Thune was successful in including a common-sense sodsaver provision. This provision would not allow crop insurance and NAP coverage for crops planted on native sod. Between 2002 and 2005, almost 300,000 acres of native sod in South Dakota was converted from native grassland to cropland. The House-passed farm bill only applies to crop insurance eligibility for four years after native sod is converted to cropland.

  • Expanded Tribal Access to Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Program
    At Senator Thune's request, the Agriculture Committee's bill expands the successful Fresh Fruits and Vegetables program to a minimum of 100 Indian Tribal Organizations across the country. Although the House-passed bill expanded the Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Program nationwide, it did not expand access to Indian Reservations. The Fresh Fruits and Vegetables program was started in the 2002 Farm Bill as a pilot program. Pine Ridge Indian Reservation was chosen as one of three reservations to participate in the pilot program. Thanks to Senator Thune's efforts this program will be expanded to over 100 Indian Reservations nationwide.

  • Open Fields Legislation
    In May, Senator Thune joined a bipartisan group of Senators in cosponsoring in the Open Fields Act. For the first time ever, federal funding ($20 million per year) will be available to expand the already successful walk-in program in South Dakota and in other states. South Dakota landowners have voluntarily enrolled more than 1 million acres of privately owned land in South Dakota's program. Included in the Open Fields language is a provision Senator Thune championed which will give states like South Dakota that publicize their access areas a priority for the $20 million.

Committee consideration of the Senate Farm Bill continues this morning and is expected to wrap up later today.