Missouri Farmers and Rural Communities
America's agricultural and food supply is a vital part of our economic productivity and growth. From corn and wheat to dairy and pork, Missouri is a leading producer of a diverse range of agricultural goods.
Claire is a lifelong Missourian whose family worked at a feed mill, so she understands that agriculture is more than a primary driver of Missouri's economy; it is a part of the state’s cultural fabric.
Since being elected to the Senate, Claire has sought to advance the interests of Missouri farmers and farm communities by advocating for common-sense food safety measures, competitive agricultural markets and investments in the research and development of biofuel technology, while guarding against unreasonable rules and regulations.
Food Safety and Animal Identification
Americans spend more than $1 trillion on food each year. Along with the food industry, federal, state and local agencies share responsibility for ensuring the safety of the U.S. food supply. Together, these groups are working to keep our food supply the safest in the world.
However, a number of recent incidents related to food safety have highlighted some gaps in our current system. At issue is whether our system has the resources and structural organization to protect consumers from danger, and whether our food safety laws, which were enacted in the early 20th century, can adequately keep pace with major changes in production, processing, and marketing that have taken place.
As legislation is considered to address some of these issues, Claire is committed to working with her colleagues to ensure that food safety regulations do not place unreasonable burdens on Missouri’s small- and medium-sized producers, including those who sell their goods at farmer's markets. Since arriving in Washington, Claire has also been a steadfast opponent of a mandatory National Animal Identification System (NAIS), a program that is not right for Missouri. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has been working on a NAIS program since 2002 and has spent more than $130 million on its development since 2004. However, Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports show that the USDA has yet to produce a workable plan. Additionally, the benefits claimed by USDA do not exceed the burdensome costs that NAIS would force on producers.
In the summer of 2009, Claire co-sponsored an amendment that would cut funding for the implementation of NAIS from $14.6 million to $7.3 million, essentially creating a roadblock in the implementation of a mandatory animal identification program. Claire remains a committed opponent of this unnecessary program and will continue to fight against it.
Ensuring Competitive Agricultural Markets
Missouri’s crop and livestock industries and communities have been hit hard in recent years by a series of natural disasters, from winter ice storms to summer droughts. Since her arrival in the Senate, Claire has worked closely with officials at the USDA Farm Service and USDA Rural Development to ensure that Missouri’s farmers and rural communities have the tools to rebuild following these disasters.
Claire has also worked to eliminate the waste and fraud associated with federal farm program payments. These payments, commonly known as farm subsidies, were originally created to aid farmers, avoid crop surpluses and keep crop prices above government-set targets. Claire supported provisions in the 2008 Farm Bill to ensure that farm program payments make it to those small- and medium-sized producers who need it most, including a measure to lower the eligibility cap for individuals who can access payments. She also supported provisions to provide the USDA with resources to ensure payments are only made to individuals who do not exceed the income eligibility caps.
When given an equal playing field, Claire knows that Missouri producers are competitive with any in the world. Since her arrival in Washington, D.C., she has fought hard to ensure they have the opportunity to survive and thrive, even when times are tough. She co-sponsored a bi-partisan amendment to the 2010 Agriculture Appropriations bill that will provide an additional $350 million in funds to adjust the dairy market so independent producers are able to stay afloat in a struggling agricultural economy.
Fluctuating oil prices and the environmental costs associated with the production and burning of fossil fuels underscore our nation's need to develop and use renewable energy sources. By diversifying our energy portfolio, America can reduce its dependence on foreign energy sources, lower prices, create new job opportunities in rural areas, and provide a cleaner environment for future generations.
Claire has been a champion of first-generation biofuels, such as corn-based ethanol, since her arrival in Washington. She supported the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (P.L. 110-140), which is landmark legislation ensuring that 36 billion gallons of renewable fuels will be in use by 2022 – 15 billion gallons of which will be produced from traditional renewable biofuels like corn-based ethanol and biodiesel. Claire has also continued to work with a bi-partisan group of her colleagues to urge the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to approve an intermediate blend of ethanol for use in vehicles other than "flex fuel" vehicles, which are automobiles that run on gasoline with an 85 percent ethanol concentration (E85).
As America researches and develops advanced biofuel technologies such as biomass, Claire will continue to work with her colleagues and Missouri producers to protect our nation’s investment in first-generation biofuels and the rural jobs they create, thus safeguarding our environment for generations to come.
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