WASHINGTON, May 17 - A House Agriculture Subcommittee continued their second day of setting the stage for writing a much different commodity title than the version approved by the Senate Agriculture Committee. Plus, a panel of crop insurance agents got a chance to air some of their concerns during the House Agriculture Committee's Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management hearing.
“The Senate version of the farm bill is not acceptable for folks across all of the regions. It does not meet the criteria that the Chairman (Frank Lucas) set out that’s being equitable or fair to crops and commodities across the country,” explained Rep. Mike Conaway, R-TX, Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee's Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management.
The Senate bill creates a complicated new program that is”so lopsided it actually locks in profits for some while denying any safety net at all to others,” Conaway noted in a statement released after the hearing.
“In a few weeks, the House Agriculture Committee will begin crafting a farm bill that is both fair and fiscally responsible to all producers across all regions of the country. Our efforts will save money for the taxpayer while providing policy that farmers can depend on when they truly need it," said Conaway.
Asked whether or not the commodity title in the House will include a target price program for commodities that’s tied to planted acres, Conaway said he didn’t want to “give away anything at this stage. We will be looking at all of those options. One of the things we will be looking at is choices for a variety of folks, not only within regions but within crops.”
But ranking minority member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., who was also critical of the Senate Agriculture Committee’s risk management plan because it “seems like we are duplicating what we are already doing with crop insurance” told witnesses that, “ If we are going to do a target price program, it’s going to be tied to planted acres, not base acres.”
Peterson asked witnesses representing wheat, peanuts, sorghum, soybeans, dry peas, lentils and the National Farmers Union, “what’s going to happen if we get into a low price situation for a number of years?”
“Can you guys guarantee, if we have $3 wheat for five years, are you going to be back in here asking for help,” Peterson asked. “The reality is that you can be back here in three years and it won’t do you any good. There won’t be any money.”
In response to questions from House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas about whether or not they would support “options” or a “one-size-fits-all” commodity title, witnesses agreed that they could support more flexibility.
“We are open to a target price option as long as it is decoupled from actual production,” noted Steve Wellman, President of the American Soybean Association.
Federal crop insurance was frequently mentioned as the cornerstone of any future risk management plan.
"I am pleased that over the course of our two day hearing we heard from commodity groups, economists, and insurance agents that we must preserve crop insurance and other farm safety mechanisms that allow producers to feed America and the world,” said Ranking Member Leonard L. Boswell (D-IA) in a statement.
“Crop insurance is very important. One thing we can all agree on is the importance of strong crop insurance programs,” noted Roger Johnson, President of the National Farmers Union. “But we may differ on how it’s implemented. Our members voted to support payment limits on crop insurance.”
All of the other witnesses opposed payment limits on crop insurance.
“Not only no, but hell no,” responded J.B. Stewart, Vice Chairman of the National Sorghum Producers when asked asked whether he supported crop insurance payment limits.
Ruth Gerdes, President of the Auburn Agency Crop Insurance Inc., who is also a farmer and crop insurance agent, noted in her testimony that “there is an irony that virtually all farm groups indicate that crop insurance is their top priority, but in many cases they are also advocating new farm bill policies that they believe can supplement or compliment crop insurance.”
In most cases will those policies will mainly “duplicate, compete with, or otherwise tarnish the reputation of the top priority, crop insurance,” she explained.
She cautioned lawmakers “not to create a weak duplicate that might undermine the real deal.”
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