Opening Statements

Opening Statement: Subcommittee Chairman Crawford: Focus on the Farm Economy: Growing Farm Financial Pressure

Opening Statement: Subcommittee Chairman Rick Crawford General Farm Commodities and Risk Management Subcommittee Hearing: Focus on the Farm Economy: Growing Farm Financial Pressu

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Washington, April 14, 2016 | comments

Remarks as prepared:

As many of you know, this is the first hearing in a series focused on the farm economy.  Every subcommittee will play a role in highlighting current conditions on our farms and ranches and in rural America today. Today, the economic conditions in farm and ranch country are fundamentally different than the conditions we faced when we crafted the 2014 Farm Bill.  In just three years, net farm income has fallen by 56 percent.  You would need to go back to the start of the Great Depression to find a comparable collapse in net farm income. 

During the Farm Bill debate, we committed to the principle that farm policy should not be written to make the good times even better.  Instead, the goal was to provide producers with risk management tools for the bad times that are always bound to come around in the boom-or-bust business of farming and ranching.  While some safety net features of the Farm Bill may meet the current economic test, other features have yet to prove their metal. Two important questions we must keep asking are: One, can the existing safety-net meet the growing challenges of a prolonged period of depressed prices? And two, will these policies be effective when farmers and ranchers need them most?

We know the answer already in the case of STAX for cotton.  Crop insurance is not designed to withstand the pressures caused by the predatory trading practices of China and India.  I want to thank the leadership of this Committee for pressing USDA for action to address the growing crisis in cotton country.  I am hopeful Secretary Vilsack will announce soon that immediate and meaningful help is on the way.  I am also hopeful that we will continue to work toward a more permanent solution to a serious problem for cotton farmers that is not going away anytime soon. 

Next year, we will head into a new Congress, and we will write a new Farm Bill.  As we head into that long and difficult process, I hope our colleagues who are less directly involved in agriculture or farm policy will reflect on just how critically important farm policy is in responding to a crisis that can happen overnight. While we were able to deliver a farm bill in 2014 that saved taxpayers some $23 billion, primarily through the elimination of the Direct Payment program, our colleagues must now appreciate that we will struggle mightily to write an effective Farm Bill in 2018 with the very limited amount of money we have left.

I believe it is time to look beyond the farm safety net for budget savings and deficit reduction, as our farmers have already been asked to shoulder their fair share of the burden. For my colleagues who will share the responsibility of writing a new farm bill, I hope that the lessons from the 2014 Farm Bill will not be lost on us:  the best safety net is the kind that will be there not when times are good but when the bottom is falling out.

With that, I recognize my Ranking Member and good friend for his opening statement.   

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