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May 15, 2008   Email to Friend 

Jeff Helms
(334) 613-4212
May 15, 2008

MONTGOMERY, Ala., May 15 - The Alabama Farmers Federation today praised the U.S. Congress in general and Alabama's delegation specifically for overwhelmingly passing a five-year farm bill that will fund agriculture, nutrition and conservation programs.

"The farm bill approved yesterday by the House of Representatives and today by the Senate provides Alabama farmers long-term security during these times of volatile markets and skyrocketing production costs," said Federation President Jerry A. Newby. "Our congressional delegation stood up for the farmers and consumers of this state by supporting this important legislation amid intense political pressure and the promise of a presidential veto. This bipartisan farm bill strikes a good balance by providing critical funding and reforms without raising taxes."

The House approved the farm bill Wednesday by a veto-proof majority of 318-106, and the Senate followed suit Thursday when it passed the bill by a vote of 81-15. Alabama Republican Sens. Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions both voted in favor of the farm bill, and all seven Alabama members of the U.S. House of Representatives supported its passage.

In addition to reauthorizing agriculture, nutrition and conservation programs, the farm bill includes new cost-share funding for on-farm reservoirs that will provide water during times of drought. The Farm Reservoir Act was sponsored in the House by Rep. Terry Everett, R-Rehobeth, and in the Senate by Sen. Sessions. The farm bill also expands funding for the Seniors' Farmers Market Nutrition Program, which provides vouchers to senior citizens for the purchase of fresh produce and honey. In addition, the bill sets aside $3.8 billion for a new permanent disaster program - something Alabama producers need to supplement crop insurance policies that are often inadequate to cover their losses.

Newby said phone calls, letters and emails from Alabama farmers were valuable in rallying support for the farm bill during the days leading up to this week's vote.

"Federation members throughout the state have been talking to their congressmen about the farm bill for months. In March, more than 200 traveled to Washington, and others have visited with members of Congress here in Alabama," Newby said. "Our congressional delegation knows that agriculture is our state's number-one industry, and they understand how important the farm bill is to our rural communities. We are blessed to have elected officials who appreciate farming and members who are willing to share their stories with lawmakers."

Although Alabama farmers hoped to get a farm bill passed before planting season, they believe the strong message sent by Congress this week will finally give them the farm policy blueprint they need.

While the farm bill is often associated with production agriculture, Newby pointed out that 67 percent of the $290 billion package goes to food stamps and other nutrition programs. Environmental and conservation programs account for another 9 percent, while traditional farm programs and crop insurance make up 14 percent and 8 percent, respectively.

"While no farm bill is perfect, the bipartisan package developed by the House and Senate conferees is fiscally responsible and provides funding that's critical for all Americans," Newby said. "We encourage the president to rethink his promise to veto the measure but, if necessary, we will urge our senators and congressmen to override his veto."

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