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Key Agriculture Investments Are Vital To Job Creation Nationwide

Posted Friday, October 21, 2011, at 9:38 AM

With the nation focused on private sector job creation and looking for Washington to pass policies that will help spur economic development, one of the key areas for continued growth and opportunity in Missouri is the state's number one industry -- agriculture.

Agriculture supports millions of jobs in both rural and urban Missouri. Not only does every dollar spent on agricultural research result in a $20 return to the U.S. economy, but research investment results in a food supply that is safe, abundant, and affordable.

Due to smart domestic investments in America's research infrastructure, our agriculture producers provide the highest quality products in the world. Key research investments have allowed farmers to significantly increase yields and production, while reducing the impact on the environment and keeping food prices low for consumers.

There is a lot that we can do in order to assist this key economic driver in our state and across America -- including encouraging global export opportunities, providing resources for agriculture research and other programs, and reducing burdensome federal regulations that create uncertainty for job creators.

The agriculture industry is one of the few sectors of our economy that enjoys a trade surplus. By the Obama Administration's own estimates, every $1 billion in agriculture exports supports an estimated 8,000 American jobs. With America's unemployment rate hovering above 9 percent, expanding agriculture exports is one of the important steps that we can take to jumpstart job creation.

The recent passage of the free trade agreements with South Korea, Panama, and Colombia was an important step in the right direction, as expanding access to these markets will create an estimated 20,000 agriculture related jobs alone.

When it comes to federal funding, the fact remains that Washington is not living within its means. We must tighten our belts and take a responsible approach in funding agriculture programs, which impact Americans' lives.

This week, U.S. Senator Herb Kohl (Wis.) and I did just that when we introduced the fiscal year 2012 appropriations bill for agriculture programs nationwide. This bill includes funding for agricultural research, conservation activities, housing and business loan programs for rural communities, domestic and international nutrition programs, and food and drug safety. I'm also pleased that it places significant emphasis on maintaining research programs at our land grant university system and funding competitive research programs, such as the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative.

In addition, this legislation includes funding to help farmers and communities recover from natural disasters. Missouri withstood extraordinary devastation from both tornadoes and flooding this year, and this bill includes funding for the Emergency Watershed Protection Program and the Emergency Conservation Program -- critical programs to help people rebuild their economic well-being in the aftermath of these storms.

These investments are important, but Washington can do more to provide certainty for America's farmers and ranchers, who continue to face increasing regulatory uncertainty thanks to potential and proposed rules from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

In order to help reduce that uncertainty, I introduced a bill this week with U.S. Senator Mike Crapo (Idaho) and five of our colleagues that would prevent the Obama Administration from imposing yet another needless and burdensome regulation on America's food producers.

Our bill would exempt manure, poultry litter, and their nutrient components from liability and regulation under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA or Superfund law). It also eliminates any reporting requirements by livestock and poultry producers under CERCLA and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) for manure emissions.

I also co-sponsored legislation introduced by U.S. Senator Mike Johanns (Neb.) that would stop the Obama Administration's attempts to regulate so-called "fugitive dust" on farms. You can't farm without dust, and the EPA's attempts to regulate this basic reality of the agriculture industry will hurt countless job creators nationwide. Amid continued public pressure, reports have recently surfaced that the EPA may back down on this ridiculous regulation for the time being.

These are all steps in the right direction, but there's still more work to be done. It is vital that we invest in our agriculture sector and that Missouri's farmers and ranchers have the opportunity to continue to prosper and play a key role in creating jobs and feeding the growing world. That's why we need to ensure they have the resources they need without the burden of unnecessary regulations that will hamper America's agriculture industry from creating new jobs.

U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.) is on the Appropriations Committee, where he serves as ranking member of the Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies. He also serves on the Commerce Committee, where he serves as ranking member of the Subcommittee of Competitiveness, Innovation and Export Promotion.

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U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.) serves as a member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations as well as the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.
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