Mr. President, yesterday afternoon the House of Representatives passed the farm bill conference report by a vote of 318-106. The Senate will vote in a few minutes, and we expect to have an overwhelming majority in favor of this farm bill.  I want to thank Senator Harkin for his great leadership, senator Chambliss -- it was a bipartisan effort -- as well as Senator Conrad and Senator Baucus, all the members of the committee.  I want to take good note of my colleague, Representative Collin Peterson from Minnesota, who showed such leadership in the house.  America’s farm safety net was created during the great depression as an essential reform to help support rural communities and protect struggling family farmers from the financial shocks of volatile weather and equally volatile commodity prices.

Almost 75 years later the reasons for maintaining that strong safety net are still there.  The weather is still volatile, as we've seen this year; crops are still subject to blight and disease; and farming is still a very risk-intensive business, as we've seen prices going up and down in Asia, as we've seen speculation in the farm market and I think it is very important we have the safety net so we don't get in the same place as we are with respect to energy.

I know we have people here in the gallery from pheasants forever that our conservation groups worked very hard on this.  The nutrition assistance -- I especially wanted to mention the part of the bill I worked on shall the cellulosic ethanol piece which really looked to the next generation of bio-fuels.  As we look to, say, the country of Brazil, which is energy-efficient based on energy independence, based on sugar cane, we can do it in this country.  I think we've got to go beyond our crop-based for example – I think we've got to go beyond crop-based ethanol.  We need do it in a way that's consistent with conservation which is why I'm so glad we have the support of the conservation groups that are with us today.  The last thing I wanted to mention is you know I was a strong proponent for reform in this bill. I didn't have everything that I asked for, as Senator Murray was discussing, no bill is perfect.

We had significant problems in the last few years with a small number of people, real estate developers from Florida, people in the 90210 area code collecting money.

This bill eliminates the three-entity rule.  It also -- the conferees have included substantial income limits for those who participate in the commodity program, $500,000 for nonfarm income and they're banned from getting the subsidies and then, third, $750,000 for farm-related income. Frankly, you can go a long way in Minnesota without every bumping into a farmer that made $750,000 after expenses. The reform in this bill may not be perfect but it is a lot better than where we were before. 

In conclusion, there are a lot of important changes in this bill, and there is a lot that's good for rural America.  The safety net is vital for not just or farmers but for our entire security in our country. We have made important advances in conservation and much-needed improvements to our nutrition programs.  Perhaps most importantly this bill lays the groundwork for farmers to play an even greater role in our energy future.  Thank you, Mr. President.  I yield the floor.