Kingsport, Tenn. – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today accepted the “Friend of the Farm Bureau” award during a meeting in Kingsport with members of the Tennessee Farm Bureau. This award is given each year to select members of Congress across the country based on their voting records on issues of importance to the American farmer.
“‘Friends of Farm Bureau’ are those who have demonstrated their support for agriculture through their words and actions,” said Tennessee Farm Bureau President Lacy Upchurch, who presented Senator Alexander with the award. “Our designations are influenced by statewide grassroots input and are only given when a candidate exhibits a clear understanding and record of support for Farm Bureau policy issues. We look forward to working with candidates who possess this type of understanding and experience. Senator Alexander has reached out to agriculture during his years in the U.S. Senate. His votes on the Farm Bill, continued concerns for our farmers during drought and other tough times experienced recently and all the years he supported agriculture in Tennessee as governor, makes him a friend not only of Farm Bureau, but the Tennessee farmer as well.”
“I am humbled today to receive this honor from the American Farm Bureau, and I thank them and all Tennessee farmers for helping make our state such a great place to live,” Alexander said. “Times have been tough in our state, but I’ve been working to ensure that the economic slump doesn’t make it impossible for these family businesses to stay in business.”
Alexander supported legislation this year to expand Tennessee farmers’ access to foreign markets, reduce energy costs, promote new alternative fuels made from crops that grow in Tennessee, and prevent the credit crunch from making farm loans unavailable.
“High energy costs have hit Americans hard but Tennessee farmers have an opportunity now to take the lead in growing new fuels that will reduce prices and put us on a path to clean energy independence,” Alexander said. He noted that the new Farm Bill will help Tennessee farmers because it “reduces the tax credit for corn ethanol and gives a more generous tax credit to produce cellulosic ethanol made from ingredients like switchgrass, that could grow all across our state. It shifts the focus from crops that we eat to crops that we don't eat.”
During a speech in May at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Alexander also proposed launching a 5-year new Manhattan Project to put America firmly on the path to clean energy independence within a generation. Alexander proposed seven grand challenges to scientists, including making advanced biofuels cost-competitive with gasoline – an innovation Alexander said would greatly benefit Tennessee farmers.
“Our state has also been hard hit by drought and farmers are feeling the pinch,” Alexander said. “That’s why I’ve joined with other members of the Tennessee delegation in requesting the secretary of agriculture to declare 39 counties disaster areas so that farmers can be compensated for their losses.” Alexander joined in writing two separate letters to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Edward Schafer asking him to issue disaster declarations for Tennessee counties suffering from crop and livestock losses as a result of continuing drought conditions.
Alexander said that the Farm Bill passed by Congress will benefit farmers across the state by:
• Supporting an increase in biofuels production.
o Provides a $1.01-per-gallon tax credit to produce cellulosic ethanol made from ingredients like switchgrass that grows across Tennessee.
o Includes $300 million in mandatory funding for payments to support the production of biodiesel and cellulosic ethanol.
o Reduces the blender tax credit for corn ethanol by $0.06 to $0.45 per gallon.
• Expanding broadband service in rural areas.
o Simplifies application requirements for service while shifting assistance toward areas with no or very limited service.
• Expanding the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program to Tennessee.
o Program provides locally-grown fresh fruits and vegetables to low-income school children at no cost.
Last year, Alexander worked with Senator Corker (R-Tenn) to ensure that Tennessee farmers would be eligible to receive direct disaster payments after the devastating droughts. Alexander said that as of July 7th, Tennessee farmers have received 19,079 disaster relief payments totaling approximately $51 million.