Ag's House Members Examine Future Farm Policy Options

Jan 31, 2001

Ag's House Members Examine Future Farm Policy Options
Reviewing the Commission Report on 21st Century Production Agriculture

(January 31, 2001)

As House Agriculture Committee Members prepare to embark upon the process of building consensus in future farm policy, they
convened Wednesday to examine the final report of the Commission on 21st Century Production Agriculture, created by the Ag
Committee in the 1996 farm bill to review the directions for future farm policy.

As directed by the 1996 Farm Bill, the Commission on 21st Century Production Agriculture was required to do a comprehensive
review regarding the current status of agriculture, taking into account economic risks, food security, trade, international
competitiveness of United States production, farmland values, producer incomes, and regulatory and tax relief for farmers and
ranchers.

The Commission's final report was also to contain a comprehensive review of the future of production agriculture in the United
States. The report also contains suggestions and recommendations regarding the appropriate future role of the Federal
Government in support of production agriculture. The 130-page report is posted on the Agriculture Committee website.

Before questioning Commission Members, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Larry Combest (R-Texas) noted the serious
problems facing the agricultural sector today.

"In addition to persistent low commodity prices, energy costs have skyrocketed, which in turn has caused fertilizer and other input  costs to jump dramatically. These factors, on top of the normal production risks inherent to farming, are making it more and more difficult for farmers to see how they can continue on," said Combest. "Cash flows are tighter than ever before, which causes further ripples not just in the world of ag credit, but also with input suppliers and throughout the fabric of rural America. America's farmers and ranchers will be looking to us to not only assist them in coping with the challenges that they are facing, but also to make some meaningful improvements to the farm safety net in order to bring some stability to their livelihoods. I think that the report we are reviewing today presents us with a good opportunity to begin an earnest effort in this Committee to build consensus on how best to address all the challenges facing agriculture today, and to craft a better farm policy for the future."

The Committee's Ranking Minority Member, Charlie Stenholm (D-Texas) also commented.

"Today's forum is an excellent way to begin the process of recognizing the expectations of producers and their bankers that Congress will continue to provide annual assistance to producers for their income and crop losses on the order of that received this past year. This hearing process is the first step in legitimizing our defacto baseline that lies outside the formal congressional budget process," said Charlie Stenholm, the Committee's Ranking Minority Member. "This baseline is real nonetheless because of the three years of escalating assistance we have provided. We will establish its legitimacy with these hearings and then ask the Budget Committee to include increased spending allocations for our Committee, just as happened with the Committee's crop insurance improvement efforts in 1999 and 2000."

Within the coming weeks, Chairman Combest will convene the Agriculture Committee to hear specific recommendations about
commodity programs from commodity and farmer organizations.