Monday, September 04, 2006

Agriculture

Agriculture is Pennsylvania's largest industry, and Rick Santorum, as the first Keystone State Senator to be a member of the Agriculture Committee since 1904, is consistently working to ensure that Pennsylvania's agriculture interests are represented in the United States Senate.
Rick is committed to working on issues that are important to Pennsylvania's rural communities - such as ensuring strong markets and fair prices for farmers, working to eliminate the death tax, and family access to quality health care.
He has played an instrumental role in passing legislation that positively impacts Pennsylvania's farmers.
Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) programRick Santorum supports a market-based approach to the dairy industry, while recognizing that small farmers are often not able to withstand drastic milk price fluctuations. To that end, he was one of the lead architects of the MILC program created in 2002. The MILC program provides farmers with a payment whenever the minimum market price for milk falls below the trigger price that has been established.
Research and DevelopmentRick has also wielded his influence to ensure that important research and development projects in Pennsylvania's agricultural communities are funded. In 2005 alone, Rick Santorum was instrumental in securing over $28 million for agriculture initiatives that benefit Pennsylvania's farmers. Rick's priorities for agriculture appropriations are centered on research and conservation. He has secured funding for research for the dairy industry, Pennsylvania's largest industry sector within agriculture, conservation practices, and disease control research. He has also sought and obtained funding for conservation projects related to organic farming, the fastest growing agriculture sector, and for research to develop sustainable agriculture methods. Research is critical to ensuring the future success and viability of our nation's farmers, as well as to prevent and respond to emergency outbreaks and potential biological threats.
Farmland Preservation ProgramRick Santorum played a pivotal role in creating the Farmland Preservation Program that was included in the 1996 Farm Bill, which provides federal funding to assist state and local farmland preservation efforts. Over 13,000 acres of Pennsylvania farmland are part of this program, which preserves and protects this precious land across the Commonwealth. Pennsylvania has already seen more than $12 million in assistance for this program and more than 2,500 farms have been revitalized and preserved as a result of this program. Samuel E. Hayes, former Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, commended Senator Santorum for his efforts on the Farmland Protection Program. During a hearing before the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Hayes said, "The Federal Farmland Protection Program authorized by the 1996 Farm Bill was a milestone in the effort to permanently preserve farmland - it provided the first appropriation of Federal dollars to assist state and local farmland preservation programs. I wish to acknowledge the leadership of Senator Rick Santorum in securing approval of this program in the Farm Bill."
Commitment to AgricultureOrganizations in the industry have recognized Rick Santorum's contributions to agriculture. He has received the 'Friend of the Farm Bureau' award from the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau on several occasions. This award was presented to Rick for his leadership on and support of Pennsylvania agriculture. Further, this award recognizes members of Congress who support the policies that help farmers obtain profitability with less regulatory interference, and increase demand for U.S. farm products through new uses and enhanced trade opportunities. He has also received the Thomas Jefferson Award from the Food Marketing Institute and International Foodservice Distributors Association.
Rick has acknowledged that for many decades agriculture interests in Pennsylvania have not been fairly represented in the Congress. He has made it a priority to correct those inequities and continues to focus on policies that are regionally balanced and fair to our farmers. As a member of the Senate Agricultural Committee and Chairman of the Subcommittee on Research, Nutrition, and General Legislation, Rick is uniquely positioned to further Pennsylvania's agriculture priorities in the United States Senate.
Seeing Pennsylvania's Agriculture Community Up-closeRick is committed to seeing the impact of Pennsylvania's agricultural community firsthand and regularly visits small and large farms across the Commonwealth. In addition, he has held office hours every year at the Pennsylvania Farm Show since 1996 where constituents can learn about programs that are available to assist Pennsylvania farmers and the agriculture industry.
Rick has used the hands-on information he's gained from his visits with farmers and others in the agricultural community and put that into action in Washington. For example, on the issue of mandatory country-of-origin labeling, Rick learned that many have been adversely impacted by this program as it puts burdensome red tape on many in the industry. Rick introduced legislation that replaces the expensive mandatory labeling program with a more efficient, less expensive voluntary system for beef, veal, lamb, pork, fish, and produce. Instead of a national country of origin system, products would be labeled along the supply chain wherever it is most efficient to do so. Rick's legislation promotes U.S. products, while also creating the best of all worlds for producers, distributors, retailers, and consumers.
Trade Benefits Pennsylvania's AgricultureRick believes that the development of free trade is vital to our nation's continued prosperity. As our nation faces greater competition from other countries, Rick believes that the United States must adapt to give our industries every opportunity to succeed.
To that end, he supported the Central American-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR). This trade agreement will have a tremendous positive impact on two crucial Pennsylvania industries—agriculture and sugar manufacturing. Rick is a strong supporter of free trade and believes that in order for us to compete on an international level, our farmers in Pennsylvania must have access to the markets in which these consumers reside. The CAFTA-DR agreement grants American farmers access to markets in six additional countries and nearly 44 million new consumers.
Pennsylvania will reap the benefits of new trade relationships that should develop following the implementation of this agreement. In 2004, Pennsylvania exported $353 million to the CAFTA-DR nations, making it the Commonwealth's 12th largest export market.

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