SAN DIEGO, August 9, 2017 - House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway, R-Texas, gave American Sugar Alliance members just what they wanted Tuesday morning – his unqualified support for the U.S. sugar program as his panel prepares to write a new farm bill.

“The truth of the matter is the sugar policy of the U.S. works, and it’s worked for a long time, properly,” and generally at no cost to the American taxpayer, Conaway told the crowd gathered in San Diego for the 34th annual International Sweetener Symposium. He said he’s looking forward to continuing that policy in the 2018 farm bill.

Conaway acknowledged that it’s been a difficult four years for production agriculture, as commodity prices fell and farm income plummeted, and he said no one expects things to improve any time soon. But he said the conditions “provide a better backdrop to persuade colleagues why they need to support the farm bill” – and not just for sugar, but for all of American agriculture.

Conaway also talked optimistically about having legislation ready for floor deliberation late this year or early in 2018. “We’re going to get this done on time,” Conaway said. “There’s no reason to put it off.” After holding hearings and a number of listening sessions around the country, “we have the facts … to go ahead and make the hard decisions.”

Conaway pointed out that a House budget proposal for fiscal 2018 calls for $10 billion in savings in agriculture over 10 years, and he said if that survives negotiations with the Senate, “we’ll get together and deliver and move forward.” He said savings could come from strengthening work requirements for able-bodied adults receiving SNAP payments, which account for the lion’s share of the Agriculture Department budget.

Conaway also called for the full repeal of the estate tax, which critics call the death tax, rather than tweaking the law so that it would only affect the wealthiest Americans, mentioning people like Bill Gates. “Don’t fall for that,” Conaway, said, noting that the next Congress could just as easily change the exemptions. “Let’s get rid of it,” he said. “It’s a terrible policy.”