Rep. Austin Scott, Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee's Subcommittee on Horticulture, Research, Biotechnology and Foreign Agriculture, held a public hearing to review the impact of enforcement activities by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) on specialty crop growers. Specifically, Subcommittee Members addressed growing concerns that DOL is using the "Hot Goods" provision under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) in an arbitrary manner against producers of perishable agricultural commodities without regard for the inevitable destruction of the product and significant economic hardship inflicted on farmers and their employees.
Ag Subcommittee Hearing Highlights the Importance of a Fair & Effective Safety Net
Tamara Hinton, 202.225.0184
WASHINGTON – Today, Rep. K. Michael Conaway, Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee's Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management, continued the third hearing series on agricultural policy in advance of writing the 2012 Farm Bill. Commodity programs and crop insurance were the focus of the two-day hearing that began on Wednesday.
Title I programs and crop insurance form the backbone of the farm safety net that ensures farmers are able to manage a few seasons of volatile prices or devastating weather patterns. This effort ultimately ensures that consumers have a stable food and fiber supply. The four panels of witnesses included economists and leaders from various commodity and agricultural groups highlighting the diversity of agriculture across the country. Witnesses described how programs are working under current law and how reforms can be made while stressing the need for a fair and effective safety net and a strong crop insurance program.
"The clear message from the hearing is that farmers need price protection. If prices collapse, we can't have policy that collapses right along with them creating a crisis in farm country and calls for expensive, unbudgeted bailouts in Washington. Calls that cannot be answered because the government is broke. I have concerns that the Senate bill fails to provide that kind of protection. The Senate bill also 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. 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 Chairman K. Michael Conaway (R-TX).
"Yesterday and today we were reminded that the details are critical when designing programs to provide farmers with assurance and a safety net. 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. To no surprise, our farmers and ranchers have stepped up to the plate and are ready and willing to dig through the weeds with us to craft policy that will benefit all producers. We must continue to work together to move forward on a House Farm Bill so that we can go to conference and negotiate a final bill that will assist our farmers and feed our communities before further budget cuts place these important programs in jeopardy," said Ranking Member Leonard L. Boswell (D-IA).
Written testimony provided by the witnesses is linked below. To watch the archived video of the two hearings follow these links: May 16, May 17. More information on the 2012 Farm Bill can be found here.
Dr. Joe Outlaw, Professor and Extension Economist, Department of Agricultural Economics, Co-Director, Agricultural and Food Policy Center, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas
Dr. Gary Schnitkey, Professor, Department of Agriculture and Consumer Economics, University of Illinois, Urbana, Illinois
Dr. Keith Collins, Economic Advisor to National Crop Insurance Services, Former USDA Chief Economist, Centreville, Virginia
Mr. Chip Bowling, Board Member, National Corn Growers Association, Newburg, Maryland
Mrs. Linda C. Raun, Chairwoman, USA Rice Producers Group, Partner, LR Farms, El Campo, Texas
Mr. Bob Stallman, President, American Farm Bureau Federation, Columbus, Texas
Mr. Dee Vaughan, President, Southwest Council of Agribusiness, Dumas, Texas
Mr. Chuck Coley, Chairman, National Cotton Council, Vienna, Georgia
Mr. Scott Brown, President, National Barley Growers Association, Soda Springs, Idaho
Mr. Erik Younggren, President, National Association of Wheat Growers, Hallock, Minnesota
Mr. Armond Morris, Chairman, Southern Peanut Farmers Federation, Irwinville, Georgia
Mr. Roger Johnson, President, National Farmers Union, Washington, D.C.
Mr. J.B. Stewart, Vice Chairman, National Sorghum Producers, Keyes, Oklahoma
Mr. Steve Wellman, President, American Soybean Association, Syracuse, Nebraska
Mr. Jim Thompson, Chairman, USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council, Farmington, Washington
Ms. Ruth Gerdes, President, The Auburn Agency Crop Insurance, Inc., Auburn, Nebraska; on behalf of the Crop Insurance Professionals Association
Mr. Brian M. McSherry, President, McSherry Agency, Inc., Flanagan, Illinois; on behalf of the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America
Mr. Tim Weber, President, Crop Insurance Division. Great American Insurance Company, Cincinnati, Ohio