Merkley Announcement on Farm Bill support of Forfestry
Today (June 21), the U.S. Senate passed the 2012 farm bill on a 64-35 bipartisan vote. The 2012 farm
bill contains crucial support for agriculture, food and rural communities, including two key provisions
authored by Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley. One improves crop insurance for organic farmers and the
other provides low-cost loans for energy efficiency renovations of homes and businesses in rural areas.
“From wheat in the East to vineyards, berries, and grass-seed in the West, a strong farm bill is crucial
for all of Oregon,” said Senator Merkley after the vote. “I have said all along that this needs to be a bill
that represents Oregon’s priorities, and I am pleased that a bipartisan majority in the U.S. Senate came
together and supported those efforts. With new support for Oregon’s organic farms and low-cost loans
for Oregon’s rural energy co-ops, this bill is definitely good news for Oregon.”
Senator Merkley’s organic crop insurance amendment was added to the bill yesterday in a bipartisan
vote by the full Senate. The amendment makes crop insurance fairer and more cost-effective for
organic farmers. Currently, organic farmers pay an extra five percent organic crop surcharge on their
crop insurance and are supposed to receive the organic crop price if they have an insurance claim.
Unfortunately, however, the USDA has not done the studies required to set the organic crop prices.
Senator Merkley’s amendment directs the USDA to collect the necessary data and set the organic crop
prices within three years. Oregon has more than 500 certified organic farms.
The Rural Energy Savings Program was authored by Senator Merkley and co-sponsored by Senator Dick
Lugar (R-IN). The program allows rural energy co-ops to receive low-cost loans from the Rural Utilities
Service (RUS). They then make loans to their customers, who use them to perform energy efficiency
renovations on their homes or businesses. This has two advantages. Customers can pay back the
loans through the savings on their energy bill. Moreover, energy efficiency renovations are one of the
most cost-effective ways to create jobs. This is true because the labor force cannot be outsourced and
because more than 90% of the materials used in the renovations are manufactured in the United States.
The Rural Energy Savings Program was added to the bill in committee, and an amendment cosponsored
by Senator Merkley on the floor provided the program with $50 million in funding.