Washington, DC — Assistant Democratic Leader Dick Durbin and Democratic Senators Max Baucus, Kent Conrad, Byron Dorgan, Barbara Boxer, and Tim Johnson today visited the open-air market in Eastern Market, Washington, DC, to discuss the ripple effect of high gas prices, and Democratic policies that will ease prices today and put America on a path toward energy independence. Joined by Tom Buis, President of the National Farmers Union, Bill Glasgow, the owner of the Union Meat Company at Eastern Market, farmers, and small business owners, they called on Republicans to join Democrats in passing legislation that will help the American people right now,
Gas prices are punishing Americans across the country, but the pain they cause is not limited to the gas station. The effects ripple across the nation, on a path from farms, to small businesses, to kitchen tables all across America. With so many struggling to make ends meet, it is long past time for Bush Republicans to put aside the energy policies that the Bush-Cheney White House let Big Oil write and stand up for the American people.
“Illinois farmers have expressed real concern when every dollar they earn from their land is eaten up by the rising cost of fuel and fertilizer,” said Senator Durbin (D-IL). “When energy prices cut deep into the profits of family farmers, it threatens their survival. The Republican leadership in Congress has proposed a $100 rebate to help Americans through this energy crisis. I respect Illinois farm families too much to suggest this is a serious response to a real crisis.”
“Agriculture is the backbone of our country,” said Senator Baucus (D-MT). “We have the safest, most affordable food supply in the world and agriculture plays an important role in our economy as well. Rising fuels prices shouldn’t cause family farms to go up in smoke. I’m committed to working together with my Senate colleagues to get our producers some long-overdue and much-needed assistance.”
“Our nation’s dependence on foreign sources of energy poses an unacceptable risk to both our economic and national security. Importing 60 percent of the oil we consume from some of the most dangerous parts of the world is a simply unsustainable course,” Senator Conrad (D-ND) said. “Fortunately, there is a way we can forge our nation’s energy independence. I have introduced a comprehensive energy initiative that, if adopted, would unlock our nation’s resources and break the foreign stranglehold on our energy supplies. I call it the BOLD Energy Act, for Breaking Our Long-term Dependence. With the BOLD Energy Act, we can find our future energy in the Mid West, instead of the Mid East.”
“Family farmers are intensive users of energy, but have no way to pass on rapidly escalating energy costs to anyone else, something most other business operations are able to do,” Senator Dorgan (D-ND) said. “As a result, today’s fuel and fertilizer prices are more than just painful for many family farmers. They are devastating. That’s why I included help paying for energy for farmers in the agricultural disaster assistance package I included in the Supplemental Appropriations bill now on the Senate floor. Yet the President threatens to veto the bill if it includes even one dollar of disaster aid for America’s family farmers. I think we’ve got another Katrina like situation developing in rural America. Once again, I don’t think the President really knows or understands what is going on.”
“California is the largest agriculture producing state in the country, and right now our farmers and growers are feeling the burden of high gas and fertilizer prices,” Senator Boxer (D-CA) said. “There are steps we can take right now to provide some relief- the President could release some of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, order that new cars purchased for the federal fleet be more fuel efficient, and go after these oil companies that have been raking in profits.”
“High energy prices increase the cost of producing food,” said Senator Johnson (D-SD). “This ripple effect moves from our farms and ranches to our grocery store shelves. High gas prices affect more than just the cars in our driveway. This spring producers will pay more for fertilizer, and during the fall harvest, our farmers and ranchers will face higher costs to move their products to market. We must find a way to address high gas prices before it takes a hit on our entire economy.”
After five years of policies that have put the profits of oil companies ahead of the energy future of the American people, it’s time for a new direction. Democrats believe America can do better, and have real, comprehensive policies to ease the price of gas, to investigate and punish price gouging, and to put America on a path toward energy independence. Millions are struggling with these higher costs today, and it is long past time Washington put the American people ahead of the oil companies.