The U.S. House of Representatives yesterday approved the conference report for the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 — the Farm Bill — by a vote of 318 to 106. The bill now moves on to the Senate, and of course will eventually move on to President Bush, who would like to veto the bill. Depending on the final voting margin, he may not have the firepower to do that.

House representatives called it a groundbreaking bill that invests in improved nutrition, conservation, renewable energy and farm programs and includes significant reforms.

It received support from more than 550 farm, specialty crop, conservation, nutrition, consumer and religious organizations.

"The Food, Conservation and Energy Act makes essential improvements in the food, farm and conservation programs that meet the needs of Americans in cities, suburbs and rural communities nationwide," said House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson.  "This bill will help working American families struggling with high food prices and will ensure that our farmers and ranchers can continue to provide a safe, abundant, homegrown supply of food and fiber."

"Agriculture policy is essential to the lives of every American and it is important that the policy we formulate is responsible, effective, and at a low cost to the taxpayer and this bill meets those requirements. This farm bill contains more reform than any farm bill in history. Although we call it a farm bill, farm programs only account for roughly 12 percent of this bill," said Ranking Member Bob Goodlatte. "And as a part of the total federal budget, farm programs account for only one-quarter of one percent--a two-fold decrease from the 2002 Farm Bill. This fiscally responsible farm bill will still allow America''s farmers and ranchers to produce the safest, most reliable, and most affordable food supply in the world."

Congressmen cited these highlights of the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 (H.R. 2419) include: 

  • Invests $10.361 billion in nutrition programs, providing funding for food banks, improving and expanding access to the food-stamp program by reforming benefit rules to cover rising food costs
  • Devotes more than $1.3 billion in funding for organic agriculture, fruit and vegetable programs, and local food networks. It Includes a new title dedicated to the needs of specialty crops and organic agriculture, including nutrition, research, pest management and trade promotion programs
  • Extends and provides $7.9 billion of new funding for popular conservation programs, including the Environmental Quality Incentive Program, Farm Protection Program, Wetlands Reserve Program, and the Conservation Reserve Program
  • Invests an additional $1 billion in renewable energy research, development and production. It encourages the transition from corn-based ethanol to cellulosic ethanol by reducing the tax credit for corn ethanol and increasing
    the credit for cellulosic ethanol production
  • Reduces the income cap for farm program payments by 80 percent, preventing those with non-farm income above $500,000 from receiving any farm program payments and imposing a new income limit on farm income above $750,000 per year. It also requires direct attribution, closing loopholes that allow people to avoid payment limits by receiving money through multiple businesses
  • Requires mandatory Country-of-Origin Labeling for fruit, vegetables and meat.
  • Rebalances loan rates and target prices among commodities, achieving greater regional equity.
  • Offers farmers participating in commodity programs a choice between the traditional price protection safety net and new, market-oriented revenue coverage payments

The conference report and related materials are available on the Committee''s Web site.

Source: The U.S. House Committee on Agriculture