fb - voice of agriculture
September 2004

Taking Care of Unfinished Business in the 108th

Bob Stallman
American Farm Bureau
By Bob Stallman
President, American Farm Bureau

As kids across the country gear up for a new school year, lawmakers are preparing to return to Capitol Hill. But, unlike a new and exciting year of school, Congress faces a lot of unfinished work with limited time remaining and an election looming over its head. Summertime is officially over. It’s time to get down to business.

We have 19 scheduled working days before the 108th Congress adjourns. Within that time, we need to pass a comprehensive energy bill and the JOBS (Jumpstart Our Business Strength) Act. Farm Bureau members have taken on this endeavor with an exhaustive nationwide campaign, “Energy and Trade for America,” including grassroots initiatives and a Washington fly-in.

Running Out of Gas

For too long, Congress has not given energy policy the attention it deserves. With $2 per gallon gas prices hanging over the pump and no end in sight, there’s no doubt that today’s disjointed energy policy affects all Americans.

Farm and ranch families are especially affected by the failed energy policy. Higher energy prices have cost farmers an estimated additional $6.2 billion during the 2003 and 2004 growing seasons. Because of these rising natural gas prices, approximately 40 percent of the domestic fertilizer industry has closed its doors. Greater amounts of fertilizer must be imported from foreign sources, resulting in a higher trade imbalance for our nation and a reduced level of food security.

Congress needs to act now and pass comprehensive energy legislation that includes a diversified portfolio of energy resources and more domestic, environmentally friendly, renewable and traditional energy sources. Final legislation must have a renewable fuels standard, which could displace as much as 1.4 billion barrels of imported crude oil and lower the U.S. trade deficit by $34 billion.

It’s time for Congress to stop playing politics and pass an energy bill. The current dysfunctional energy policy that is forcing Americans to pay exorbitant energy prices has just about run out of gas.

Trading Up

Farm Bureau is also pushing for the JOBS Act, which, if passed, would help put an end to excessive taxes imposed by the European Union on U.S. farm goods. If the JOBS Act is not approved to repeal a U.S. corporate tax incentive, deemed illegal by the World Trade Organization, the EU tax will climb to 17 percent. The sale of U.S. farm goods to Europe is threatened by unnecessary taxation. And it is America’s farmers who are paying the price.

In addition, the bill provides incentives encouraging the use of energy, biodiesel and other renewable energy sources. It also includes a tobacco quota buyout that will boost rural economies and help farmers who choose to exit the industry.

I like to refer to the JOBS Act as “trading up.” By passing the legislation, Congress could permanently get rid of the illegal corporate tax, trading it for a more competitive marketplace for U.S. farm goods. Is it a fair trade-off? Absolutely not. It’s trading up, or getting rid of onerous trade barriers in exchange for global competitiveness, renewable fuels incentives and a financial boost to rural America.

So folks, you know where Farm Bureau’s priorities stand during the next several weeks. Securing a comprehensive energy plan and passing the JOBS Act will be on our front burner as we ring out the 108th Congress and, in essence, gear up for the next school year.