Ag producers want financial safety net in farm bill

May 20, 2010 at 7:36 am Leave a comment

By Alyssa Dizon | AVALANCHE-JOURNAL

Producers from every major agriculture commodity group in Texas told agriculture legislators that provisions of a financial safety net was their common concern for the next farm bill.

Area producers and agribusiness members filled the Texas Tech Museum for the U.S. House Agriculture Committee’s public field hearing on Monday to hear legislators and witnesses discuss the 2012 Farm Bill.

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A panel of 13 representatives from the cattle, cotton, dairy, peanuts, grain and produce industries addressed the eight committee members and listed their pros and cons of the current 2008 Farm Bill.

The farm bill is reviewed and renewed every five years and creates policy for farm and food programs related to trade, conservation, energy and domestic food programs, among other programs.

“I thought we had good testimony from a very broad range of agricultural interests,” said U.S. Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Texas. “It’s important to come out here where agriculture is actually happening.”

The select 13 witnesses submitted written testimonies to the committee and gave five-minute presentations regarding what has and has not been effective for their industries in the current farm bill. The most popular issues mentioned were crop insurance, international trade, environmental challenges and conservation programs.

In each testimony, the thread tying each of these subjects together was money – what can agriculture expect in light of federal budget constraints and how will the new farm bill protect producers’ bottom line.

Most favored the USDA direct and counter-cyclical programs and marketing loan programs under the 2008 bill, which assisted in increasing production input costs and financial stability. Those same individuals cited problems with payment limitations, eligibility standards and complex application processes for some of USDA’s farm and conservation programs.

Brad Heffington, a Lamb County cotton producer, spoke on behalf of Plains Cotton Growers and said funding cuts for programs was not a new challenge to agriculture policy.

“The basic premise of the farm bill is it’s a safety net when times are tough and international trade problems come up,” he said. “You have a safety net to keep food and fiber abundant to our communities and to our consumers.”

With the ever-present threat of natural disasters, witnesses also asked committee members to consider expanding disaster assistance programs to cover more production losses.

Despite those difficulties, Heffington said he was encouraged by the full committee’s presence in Lubbock and its commitment to working with Texas commodity groups.

Lubbock was the seventh national location for the hearings, which began April 30. The committee was in Alabama on Saturday; they have another hearing today in Sioux Falls, S.D.

Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said the committee began conducting these field hearings early to start drafting the bill next summer and have it ready once the 2008 bill expires.

“My intention is to get this bill out of the house by December of 2011 and try to get this bill done on time,” he said.

Several commodity groups said they would send additional written testimonies to the committee, and Neugebauer encouraged all interested persons to submit their comments online.

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