House Ag Committee field hearing focuses on Idaho’s diversity
By Agri-Pulse Staff
© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.
Nampa, ID May 1 – House Agriculture Committee Chair Collin Peterson (D-MN) held a field hearing in Nampa, Idaho to review U.S. agriculture policy in preparation for writing the 2012 farm bill. This was the second in a series of hearings scheduled across the country to consider new ideas regarding federal food and farm policy.
According to U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics, Idaho ranks first in the nation among states growing potatoes and second in harvested vegetables for sale. More than 900,000 acres of land in Idaho are enrolled in USDA conservation programs.
About 100 members of the community attended the hearing, including local agriculture producers and leaders. House Agriculture Committee Members attending the hearing included: Chairman Peterson, Ranking Member Lucas, Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin of South Dakota, Congressman Jim Costa of California, and Congressman Walt Minnick of Idaho. Congressman Mike Simpson of Idaho, who serves on the House Appropriations Committee, also attended the hearing.
“Idaho agriculture has long been innovative and at the forefront of the industry. I am pleased that our leaders had the opportunity to share their experiences and showcase the diversity of the Idaho agricultural community at today’s hearing,” Congressman Minnick said.
With representatives from a wide variety of conventional and organic production systems testifying, the opinions ranged from the need for comprehensive immigration reform to concern about increased environmental regulations.
“Failing to provide for orderly flows of greatly-needed workers has the potential to create enormous economic consequences for our industry and do very little to enhance our border protection,” said Jerome, ID. Adrian Boer, dairy farmer representing the Idaho Dairymen’s Association.
Charles Lyons with the Idaho Cattle Association complained that conservation and environmental regulations are extremely burdensome. He said that conservation dollars shouldn’t go to “extremist environmental group” that do nothing more than lock up grazing land. He also aid he wants to get rid of ethanol subsidies, which drive up feed costs.
Although several members of the House Agriculture Committee have expressed an interest in redirecting direct payments to other parts of the farm safety net, Scott Brown, president of the Idaho Grain Producers Association, wants to stay the course.
“The direct payment has served as a stimulus program for Idaho’s many rural families and communities,” he emphasized. “Direct payments translate into farmers purchasing equipment, seed, chemicals, parts, and fuel. Ultimately, that means jobs, which rural areas desperately need to exist.”
Brown also expressed concern about proposed cuts in the crop insurance program.
“We understand and agree with the Administration’s desire to find budget savings, however, the proposed cuts have IGPA very concerned,” he added.
Shoshone, ID. Organic producer Fred Brossy suggested changes in the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) to make it more workable for organic producers.
“The organic EQIP program would better serve organic farmers if it were redesigned to enhance whole systems instead of focusing on specific problems. It would also help if it were geared more toward smaller farmers, who measure their production in square feet rather than acres,” added Brossy.
To read witness lists and written testimony prepared for the farm bill field hearings, go to: http://agriculture.house.gov/hearings/statements.html
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