Earlier today Acting Agriculture Secretary Chuck Conner spoke to the Illinois Farm Bureau Annual meeting held in Chicago. He spoke of the great times in American agriculture right now. 2007 capped off a record 5 year run of crop production in the United States with exports valued at $82 billion. For 2008 it is projected that the USA will export $91 billion worth of crops.
The Secretary spoke of the evolution of the farm bill since 1985 that has become market oriented in scope. Ag is enjoying a net income in 2007 $87.5 billion which is $18 billion more than last year. The next farm bill needs to ensure future growth and assure continued prosperity.
Currently the farm bill is stuck in the Senate Ag Committee with the urgent need to act by the end of 2007. President Bush has indicated he wants to sign a strong farm bill, but will have problems with a farm bill that contains any tax increase, calculations of loss and lack of any reform of older farm programs. Likely if the bill contained these items it could be vetoed. Consensus has already been reached on many issues including changes in counter cyclical payments, the addition of specialty crop support with expanded research efforts of $215 million, additional purchases of fruits and vegetables for the nutrition programs, funding to help young farmers get started and expanded research funds for cellulosic ethanol.
Summarizing the Secretary again emphasized that any farm bill should not contain new taxes, can not distort the trade picture, and contains farm programs where support is going to those in need, not necessarily the rich who do not need the funds.
Other areas that Secretary Conner spoke about were the successful listening tours for the farm bill, the Doha round of trade negotiations which are still stalled, the implementation of a trade agreement with Peru and the large amount of increasing trade with China.
You can listen to a news conference comments the Secretary had here.
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