Congress is Working to Address Tennessee's Agriculture Needs
Senator Fred Thompson (R-TN)
August 6, 2001
Tennessee is fortunate to have an extraordinary agricultural community. Our farmers work hard to produce outstanding agricultural products for folks here in Tennessee and across the country. Unfortunately, Tennessee farmers have battled rough times in recent years. While farming is an inherently risky profession, weather conditions, persistent pests, and changes in markets have made things even more difficult. However, Congress is taking steps to help our farmers through legislation and by approving much-needed funding for agriculture. I'm pleased to announce that important funding for Tennessee projects has been included in the Senate Agriculture Appropriation bill for Fiscal Year 2002.
* The Senate bill includes $72 million for the Boll Weevil Eradication Program, and a portion of these funds will be directed toward the completion of Tennessee's program. Boll weevil infestation has placed added production costs on cotton growers in Tennessee and across the country. In states where the Boll Weevil Eradication Program operations are complete, growers have benefitted from lower costs, increased cotton production and significant environmental benefits from reduced pesticide application. Increased support for the Boll Weevil Eradication Program is a big win for Tennessee growers.
* $3.6 million in funding has been approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) effort to stem the spread of fire ants through the South. Fire ant infestations have caused considerable problems for Tennessee's agricultural community. These are aggressive insects that, in large numbers, can seriously injure or even kill livestock, pets, and humans. USDA's quarantine program restricts the movement of regulated articles like soil, plants, and sod from quarantined areas in order to prevent the spread of imported fire ants into areas that are not infested. The program has helped states develop a consistent set of rules for all nurseries in quarantined areas to prevent the spread of this damaging and invasive species. We must address this problem in the safest, most efficient way possible.
* The bill provides $600,000 for the horticulture research initiative at the University of Tennessee. Floriculture and nursery crops collectively constitute the third most valuable crop in the U.S., after corn and soybeans. Our state has a vibrant nursery industry and a growing floricultural and greenhouse industry, but there are many challenges that must be addressed. These include pests, pathogens, and weeds, as well as a lack of environmentally-friendly production practices. The targeted, mission-based research conducted at UT will certainly help to meet these challenges.
* $450,000 is included in the bill for UT's wood utilization project, which is a part of UDSA's Special Research Grants Program. With these funds, UT has started the Tennessee Quality Lumber Initiative to improve lumber quality and manufacturing productivity at hardwood sawmills. In addition, UT has also conducted research and industry outreach on wood residue utilization. By creating more efficient methods of disposal and by directing wood residue to companies for other uses, the amount of waste received at the state's landfills has already been reduced.
In addition, the Senate recently passed the Emergency Agriculture Assistance Act of 2001, legislation to address the continued economic crisis affecting farmers. The bill provides $4.6 billion in supplemental income assistance payments nationwide for producers of grain, wheat, rice and cotton. In addition, $900 million is provided for producers of cottonseed, oilseed, peanuts, wool, and tobacco.
These are important steps toward strengthening our agricultural community. Tennessee's farms cover more than half of our state's land area and are extremely important to our economy. Farmers preserve the rural way of life, feed millions of Americans, and provide an enormous portion of our nation's exports. I look forward to our continued work in Congress to address the needs of Tennessee agriculture.
For more information on this column and other issues, visit my web site at http://web.archive.org/web/20020626123429/http://thompson.senate.gov/.
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