I'm here to speak on the farm bill. And once again, I've done this before but I want to urge my colleagues across the aisle to move on this farm bill. I think it's incredibly important for my state of Minnesota and for our country that we move forward.
Minnesota is one of the largest agriculture states in the nation. And as a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, where we worked hard to reach a bipartisan compromise under the leadership of Chairman Harkin and ranking member Chambliss as well as Senator Conrad and Senator Baucus worked hard on this, I believe we need to move forward.
The bipartisan farm bill before us will invest in our farms and our rural communities so that they will be a strong, growing and innovative part of the 21st century. I've seen firsthand in my state where I visited all 87 counties two years in a row what the 2002 Farm Bill meant for rural America. It revitalized our communities. It gave our farmers the chance to take a risk and expand their production. And we are on the cusp of starting to move toward energy independence. We're on the cusp of not depending on these oil cartels in the Mideast and instead investing in the farmers and the workers of the Midwest. And I do not believe that we should turn away from that.
I believe it's time to move forward. 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 prices and volatile weather. Almost 75 years later the reasons for maintaining that safety net still exist. As I said, the 2002 Farm Bill spurred rural development by allowing farmers in Minnesota and across this country to expand production. And because of the gains in productivity and the expansion of the last farm bill, the 2002 Farm Bill came in under a ten-year period, $17 billion under budget.
As we continue to debate the 2007 Farm Bill next week -- and I hope my colleagues on the other side of the aisle will allow us to debate this farm bill -- it is important not to underestimate the value of a strong farm bill. That's why as a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee I support this bill. I do believe, as I know the presiding officer does, that there should be more reform in that bill.
I support the Dorgan-Grassley amendment to put some limits on subsidies. I also believe that we should have some limits on eligibility. I would suggest $750,000 for a full-time farmer, $250,000 income for a part-time farmer. I don't think there are significant limits we need in the current farm bill, but that being said, we're not even going to be able to get to a stage to talk about those important reforms if we don't allow this bill to move forward.
And I think that is what our leadership is trying to do every single day with this farm bill. One of the things that most interests me about this bill is the increased focus on cellulosic-based ethanol. That is the part that our office worked on, and we actually -- the bill that we drafted is a part of this bill. The idea is to build on our corn-based ethanol and soybean-based biodiesel to a new generation of ethanol, and that's cellulosic-based ethanol. It's better for the environment, puts carbon back in the soil; it's higher in energy content, and we're not going to get there unless we have the incentives in place. And I know there are people that complained about ethanol, but I will tell you I think of it as the computer industry in the 1970s, when the computers were in these huge rooms and they got more and more and more efficient and changed our country.
Well, it is the same with fuel. Right now we are just at the infancy of an industry, and ethanol and biomass and other kinds of farm-based fuel, and we are just at the beginning. And if we let the oil companies have their way and tell us that it's stopping them from building their refineries and allow them to get in the way and not allow us to retail the fuel like we should, there's outrageous stories of them not allowing the prices to be posted or the pumps to be put in.
We're only 1,200 ethanol pumps in this country, and 320 of them are in my state, Mr. President, but who's counting? If we are really going to move forward with biomass and with our own energy, we have to allow this industry to develop. When I've talked to farmers across our state, what they like most about the 2002 Farm Bill is the safety net and the way it worked. And it worked well for the first time in a long time. What we did with this farm bill was basically allow that safety net to stay in place and also rebalance the commodity programs to be more equitable for some northern crops like wheat, oats, barley, soybeans, and canola.
I just met with our wheat and barley growers a few hours ago. They are one of the many groups that care a lot about this, again, revitalized a lot of the areas of our state that had been troubled because of the fact that we have a thriving rural economy.
Another top priority for Minnesota farmers was creating a permanent program for disaster assistance. I'd like to thank Senator Baucus and the finance committee for their work in this area. Farmers are tired of coming back to Congress every year with a tin cup. We've been hit by drought, flooding and everything in between. They had to wait for three years for Congress to pass the ad hoc disaster relief bill, and the permanent program of disaster relief will give farmers the security they need moving forward. And I urge my colleagues on the other side of the aisle who are in farm states to think about the importance of this disaster program for their states.
The farm bill is not just, as we know, about the commodity programs and the safety net. It is also about energy. It's also, as I mentioned, about biofuels. I mentioned the cellulosic piece of it that is so important. It also includes bipartisan legislation that senator crapo and I introduced to double the mandatory funding for the biodiesel education program. Spreading the word on biodiesel to drivers and gas stations is very important if we're going to help that industry grow.
So, again, I urge every senator who wants less dependence on foreign oil to look at the energy parts of this farm bill. One of the things that has plagued our rural communities in the last decade or so is the inability for younger people to get involved in farming. And the committee accepted my amendment to improve the beginning farmer and rancher program. There are real opportunities today to start out in farming, especially in growing areas like organic farming and energy production. But beginning farmers also face big obstacles, including limited access to credit and technical assistance and the high price of land.
The beginning farmer and rancher programs in this farm bill provide mentoring and outreach for new farmers and training and business planning and credit building, the skills that they need to succeed and to stay on the land. So if you're concerned because you've seen fewer and fewer young people going into farming in your state, I urge you to move this bill forward.
As I said, there are a lot of good things for Minnesota and for our country in this farm bill. There is, however, one area that needs reform, and that is that we need to stop urban millionaires from pocketing farm subsidies intended for hard-working farmers. Here are the facts in our state. Minnesota is the sixth-largest agriculture producing state in the nation. And I would add as we approach Thanksgiving, the number-one turkey producer in our country. I was able, Mr. President, to judge a race recently between a Minnesota turkey and a Texas turkey at the King Turkey days in Minnesota and I would like to add that the Minnesota turkey won the race. The Texas turkey got too cold and had to be carried over the finish line.
Minnesota, as I said, is the sixth largest agricultural producing state in the nation. Nationally 60 farms have collected more than $1 million each under the 2002 Farm Bill. None of them are in our state. The average income for Minnesota farms after expenses is $54,000. But under the current system, a part-time farmer can have an income as high as $2.5 million from outside sources and still qualify for federal benefits. I very strongly support this farm bill, but I also believe we need some reform in this area because it makes no sense to hand out payments to multimillionaires when this money should be targeted to family farmers and conservation and nutrition and other programs under the farm bill.
Right now nearly 600 residents of New York City, 559 residents of Washington, DC, and even 21 residents of Beverly Hills 90210 have received federal farm checks in the past three years. Some collected hundreds of thousands of dollars. We have the opportunity to fix this in this farm bill, because the administration has not been doing its job in enforcing the rules, so I say let's use this farm bill to do it.
The house bill does contain some income eligibility limits. I believe it is $1 million for a full-time farmer, $500,000 for a part-time farmer. We in this bill have the ability to go further with an amendment for $750,000 for full-time, $250,000 for part-time. The Dorgan-Grassley amendment would keep subsidy levels at $250,000. You put that into this farm bill. If our colleagues will not allow it to proceed, we're not going to be able to make that reform which the administration has not really enforced on its own. And I believe that this is a great opportunity for us.
For the reasons that I laid out there for the energy title, which is forward-thinking, for the conservation title, which is more funding and much more aggressive look at conservation, for the nutrition title where we're finally promoting fruits. And if we just rest on our laurels and don't do anything new, we're not going to be able to move in the direction we want for the energy revolution in this country.
When my daughter did a project for sixth grade on biofuels last year, she actually drew a map of the state of Minnesota, she had two dots that said Minneapolis and St. Paul and a big circle said "Pine City, the home of farmer Peterson." The future for our economy in
Minnesota and across the country, when you look at energy, the rural part of our country will have a big piece of this and it is necessary for development. If we don't pass this farm bill we will not get there.
I urge my colleagues for that and many other reasons to move forward with the 2007 farm bill. Thank-you.