Senate Approves Farm Bill Conference Report

Cochran, Wicker say legislation contains support important to Mississippi farmers

May 15, 2008

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker today announced the Senate approved the Food Conservation and Energy Act of 2008.  The bill will maintain current farm bill safety net programs to assist farmers during times of depressed commodity prices. 

“This legislation strikes a careful balance among the many important programs within the farm bill,” said Senator Cochran.  “I am pleased that the bill continues the farm income safety net program developed in the 2002 Farm Bill.  These programs help to ensure adequate support to farmers in Mississippi during times of depressed prices.”

Senator Wicker said:  "This farm bill is the result of lengthy discussions and compromise.  On balance, the bill has won the support of our farmers and the agriculture community.  While not a perfect bill, there are a number of elements in this compromise that will benefit Mississippi, particularly the rural areas of our state.  I would like to commend Senator Cochran, who is a leader on the Agriculture Committee, for his hard work in helping forge this compromise."

Items of interest to Mississippians include:

  • Catfish Grading and Inspection – The legislation authorizes the U.S. Department of Agriculture to begin a voluntary grading and mandatory inspection program for catfish.
  • Conservation Reserve Program for retired catfish ponds – The legislation modifies the Farmable Wetland Pilot Program of the Conservation Reserve Program to make retired catfish ponds eligible for this continuous CRP program.
  • Cotton Storage – The cotton storage program is maintained through the life of the bill. 
  • Natural Products Research – The legislation authorizes funding for a natural products research program design to complement the ongoing research activities at the University of Mississippi. 
  • Delta Health Initiative – The legislation authorizes funding for a regional health initiative through the Rural Development Agency at USDA. 

    The bill increases funding for important programs within the Nutrition and Conservation titles.   The continuation of programs such as the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program, Wetlands Reserve Program, and Environmental Quality Incentives Program which have broad participation throughout Mississippi.  The additional funding for nutrition programs will address many of the needs facing many of America’s poor, children, and elderly.  The nutrition programs authorized in this committee touch the lives of one out of every five people in this country, including over 37 million children.   

Senator Cochran said:  “I am proud of the work that has been accomplished on this bill, not only for the State of Mississippi but also for the future of agriculture in the United States.  The legislation provides support for the interests of farmers and ranchers but more importantly it provides for the interests of all Americans.  I hope the President will sign this bill soon so that the nation can begin to benefit from this important legislation.”

According to the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce, in 2006 the state’s agricultural industries provided an economic impact of $5.8 billion.