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Farm Bill Hearings Get An Early Start

Is it just me or does it seem like the House Ag Committee’s field hearings on the 2012 Farm Bill are just a tad early in this entire process? We’ve heard both sides of the argument for starting these hearings two years before the serious debates begin on the new law.
By starting the hearings so early, it does give this committee as well as the Senate Ag Committee extra time to lay the groundwork and anticipate what the funding challenges will be in the new bill.
Considering the current economic environment, it’s likely that there will be less money available. And, since the presidential election will be in high gear in 2012, it would be ideal if the bill could be sent to the President’s desk early in 2012. That’s the perfect scenario.
Maybe House Ag Committee Chairman Collin Peterson is doing exactly what needs to be done to conduct hearings before the mid-term elections this fall and presidential politics of 2011 and 2012.
The turnout was impressive for the recent hearing in Lubbock, Texas, where more than 300 attended at Texas Tech University. Most High Plains producers seemed pleased that they were being offered a chance to offer suggestions and input this early in the process. And most producers seemed to understand that the writing of the 2012 law will be extremely difficult because of budget constraints.
This environment is in stark contrast to a 2005 field hearing in Lubbock conducted by former Ag Secretary Mike Johanns about two and a half years before the 2008 Farm Bill was eventually signed into law. At that meeting, several High Plains producers came to the microphone and expressed a desire to keep major provisions of the 2002 Farm Law intact. They were adamant about how well the 2008 law was working. And what happened after that meeting? USDA issued a press release stating that it was obvious Texas producers wanted to see changes in the new law. That statement puzzled many who were in attendance that afternoon.
Suffice it to say that the mood was quite different for the recent hearing in Lubbock. Committee members asked questions and gained enough feedback to know how important this next Farm Bill will be to the largest cotton producing state in the country. Texans want to have a voice in the writing of the new law, and chances are good that Chairman Peterson already knows this.
Let’s hope this kind of dialogue continues for the next two years.