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Renewable energy, FTAs Bush's top ag-related issues in State of the Union address

Agriculture.com Staff 01/28/2008 @ 8:03pm

In his final State of the Union address Monday evening, President George W. Bush called upon members of Congress to take steps to advance renewable energy, improve immigration measures and advance future free trade agreements, all key issues to U.S. agriculture.

In the typically applause-riddled speech, the President briefly spoke to the importance of renewable energy sources in the nation's future, both in terms of the fuel complex and the nation's security. Specifically, Bush has requested a 36-billion-gallon renewable fuels standard by 2022.

"Let us increase the use of renewable power...Let us continue to invest in advanced battery technology and renewable fuels to power the cars and trucks of the future," Bush said Monday night.

The President's plan, White House officials say, does back away from a more aggressive target set in last year's State of the Union address, but continues on a path that will lead to a "five-fold increase over previously required levels" for biofuels, according to a White House report.

Free trade agreements (FTAs) have paid high dividends to the U.S. economy in recent years, Bush said, and such agreements with nations like Columbia, Panama, Peru and South Korea should be pursued in years to come.

"Many products from these nations now enter this nation duty-free, yet our products face steep tariffs in their markets," he said. "These agreements will level the playing field. Trade brings better jobs and better choices. The federal government has the responsibility to help."

The global stage of the Doha Round of the World Trade Organization is also a target of trade negotiations in the coming year, the President added, saying U.S. negotiators "must complete a good agreement this year."

"A successful agreement will further open markets for American goods, crops and services and help millions struggling to escape poverty worldwide," according to a White House report.

While White House officials say the ongoing construction of a growing border fence is a key element in the administration's plan for immigration reform, Bush pushed for workplace enforcement of immigration and bipartisan cooperation in Congress to reach a "sensible and humane way to deal with peopl ehere illegally," he said.

"Although Congress has not passed legislation to address the immigration challenges our Nation faces, the Administration continues to build upon progress we have already made in strengthening border security, enforcing our worksite laws, keeping our economy well-supplied with vital workers, and helping new Americans assimilate into our society," according to a White House report. "We need a new way for foreign workers to come here lawfully, on a temporary basis, and support our economy."

The immigration issue looks to be a challenge well into the future, the President added in his Monday address.

"Illegal immigration is complicated, but it must be resolved, and in a way that upholds our loaws and our highest ideals," Bush said.

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