Published online: Jul 20, 2007 AgPress
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WASHINGTON, D.C. - The House Agriculture Committee yesterday passed a new Farm Bill that makes historic investments in conservation, nutrition and renewable energy while maintaining a safety net for America's farmers and ranchers. Additionally, for the first time, substantial funding for the fruit and vegetable industry was approved.

Highlights of the Farm Bill (H.R. 2419) include:

Investing more than $1.6 billion in priorities to strengthen and support the fruit and vegetable industry in the United States. A new section for Horticulture and Organic Agriculture includes nutrition, research, pest management and trade promotion programs

Providing farmers participating in commodity programs with a choice between traditional price protection and new market-oriented revenue coverage payments

Strengthening payment limits to ensure that people making more than $1 million a year (adjusted gross income) can't collect conservation and farm program payments and closing loopholes that allow people to avoid payment limits by receiving money through multiple business units.

Rebalancing loan rates and target prices among commodities, achieving greater regional equity

Cutting federal payment rates to crop insurance companies that are making record profits due to higher crop prices

Extending and makes new investments in conservation programs including the Conservation Reserve Program, Wetlands Reserve Program, Environmental Quality Incentive Program, Farm and Ranchland Protection Program and others.

Expanding the USDA Snack Program, which helps schools provide healthy snacks to students during after-school activities to all 50 states and continuing the DOD Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, which provides a variety of fresh produce to schools
Strengthening and enhancing the food stamp program by reforming benefit rules to improve coverage of food costs and expand access to the program with additional funding support

Including key provisions that invest in rural communities nationwide, including economic development programs and access to broadband telecommunication services

Establishing a new National Agriculture Research Program Office to coordinate the programs and activities of USDA's research agencies to minimize duplication and maximize coordination at all levels and creates a competitive grants program

Protecting and sustaining our nation's forest resources

Making important new investments in renewable energy research, development and production in rural America

Copies of the bill considered by the Committee and the amendments that were adopted are available on the Committee's website at: .

The House of Representatives is expected to vote on the Farm Bill before the end of July.