La. Farm Bureau/Radio Network
October 31, 2013
Highlights of Chairman Lucas's Opening Statement
At the first formal meeting of the Farm Bill Conference Committee Wednesday - Chairman Frank Lucas made it clear that the committee has a responsibility to put policy in place that is good for farmers, ranchers, consumers and those who have hit difficult times. When the committee reaches consensus - Lucas says the final production will provide major savings to the Treasury, significant reforms to policy and yet still provide a safety net for not only the production of food and fiber - but also to ensure Americans have enough food to eat. Lucas said a safety net must be written with bad times in mind. According to Lucas - a farm bill shouldn't guarantee that the good times are the best - but rather that the bad times are manageable. He said a safety net should provide flexibility and choice to meet the unpredictable nature of farming. Lucas said the House farm bill reflects a belief in giving farmers and ranchers - no matter where they live or what they grow - something they can count on to help mitigate risks inherent in this business. To that end - he said livestock, SURE and crop insurance take on great significance.
Lucas said crop insurance is both an essential risk management tool for producers that should be preserved and a sound investment to ensure a stable and affordable food supply. He doesn't favor applying layers of regulatory bureaucracy to it. Lucas said conservation compliance is already the law of the land - and tying the measure to crop insurance is a redundant regulatory burden on people who are already the best caretakers of our natural resources and who already have conservation practices in place. According to Lucas - providing regulatory relief to producers was another priority in the House bill. He also noted the GIPSA rule first proposed over three years ago and the pending World Trade Organization case associated with mandatory country of origin labeling as issues he hopes to address. As for reforms to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program - Lucas said he is going to look to find common ground between the House and Senate-passed farm bills to preserve the important safety net for those most in need.
Highlights of Senator Stabenow's Opening Remarks
In her opening statement to the farm bill conference committee - Senate Ag Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow said the farm bill approved by the Senate represents the biggest reforms to agricultural policy in decades. She noted it ends direct payments, tightens payment limits, modernizes dairy policy and stops people who aren't actively engaged in farming from getting taxpayer subsidies. In an area where the House and Senate agree it's important to reform and strengthen crop insurance - she said the bill expands crop insurance to cover more farmers and more kinds of crops. Stabenow pointed out that the Senate also agrees with the House on the importance of an effective, permanent livestock disaster assistance program. When it comes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program - Stabenow said the Senate worked hard to make real reforms to save money - cracking down on fraud and misuse to make sure every dollar is going to families who are truly in need. She said that is the approach needed to achieve bipartisan support for the final farm bill.
While there are many areas that are similar between the House and Senate farm bills - Stabenow said SNAP is not the only difference. She mentioned a provision that would override state government's Constitutional authorities on a wide range of issues including animal welfare, milk standards, labeling of artificial sweeteners and invasive pests - just to name a few. Stabenow said the 16-million men and women whose jobs rely on the strength of agriculture are counting on the farm bill conferees to work together in good faith and get the farm bill done.
Farm Bureau Optimistic About Farm Bill
American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman says the first formal conference committee talks on the farm bill has renewed his group's optimism that we are nearing the end of a three-plus year trek. Now that the legislation and process is back in the hands of the Senate and House Agriculture Committee leaders and members - he says Farm Bureau is eager to do all it can to ensure the new farm bill is on the President's desk as soon as possible this year. He says it's time to get the harvest in on the new five-year farm bill. Stallman notes Farm Bureau has two overarching goals with the conference. One is ensuring permanent law is not repealed and the second is ensuring a unified farm bill continues. Stallman says Farm Bureau will also be hard at work to make sure the efforts by both committees to provide safety net and risk management options that work for farmers in all regions - including those provisions across the many titles that would help livestock and specialty crop producers - are maintained. Farm Bureau realizes the conferees face several tough decisions on how to move a bill forward that will pass the Senate and House once completed. Stallman says they are confident the leaders and members of both committees will continue demonstrating their commitment and ability to forge a bipartisan compromise.