When the nation's farm and food programs - which annually cost taxpayers more than $80 billion - come up for renewal next year, Congress will have a rare opportunity to address, in one bill, rising energy and health care costs - as well as pressing conservation concerns such as water quality, land management and habitat protection. To seize this opportunity, I have introduced bipartisan legislation with Rep. Jim Saxton (R-NJ) to stimulate early discussions and build support behind an effort to dramatically increase support for stewardship and renewable energy development on farms and to improve consumer access to healthier foods. In particular, our bill, The Healthy Farms, Food and Fuels Act (H.R. 6064), will double spending on voluntary stewardship incentives, provide grants and loans to farmers and farmer-owned businesses to develop clean sources of energy, and expand programs providing healthier food options for children, the elderly, and low-income families.

Rewarding good stewardship and renewable energy development and giving consumers more healthy food choices should be the centerpiece of the next Farm Bill. Congress should not settle for an extension of the status quo; rather, it should insist on a Farm Bill that helps meet our health, energy and conservation needs well into the future. The Healthy Farms, Food and Fuels Act offers such a framework and gives a bipartisan voice to all lawmakers who think current farm and food policy can be improved to better help consumers, farmers and the environment.