Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., ranking Republican member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, and Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., joined leaders of the National Farmers Union and others on Tuesday to promote ways Congress can help alleviate soaring energy costs for American farmers. Last month, Chambliss and Conrad formed a bipartisan group of eight Republican and eight Democratic senators to launch the New Energy Reform Act of 2008, or New ERA.
The New ERA bill is a comprehensive blueprint for a national energy policy that would include responsible offshore drilling to immediately ease the price of oil and gas, but would also direct robust new investment in alternative fuels and stronger conservation efforts to reduce the demand for gas. The goal of New Era is to move as much as 85% of the nation's trucks and cars to alternative fuels within 20 years – an Apollo Project-like effort supported by $20 billion in new federal funds collected from the oil and gas industry.
"Although the prices of many commodities are favorable, our farmers and ranchers are faced with ever increasing production costs," said Chambliss. "High production costs have not been isolated to one commodity or region of the country and have forced all of our farmers and ranchers to adjust their operations. We must act now and the New ERA plan offers realistic solutions to curtail our nation's energy crisis."
The U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service (ERS) is forecasting that 2008 production expenses will rise by $40.4 billion from the 2007 levels and reach a nominal record-high of $294.8 billion.
A Senate vote on the New ERA bill may come next week.