Committee Hears from National Producer Organizations
Farm Policy Review Continues with 13th Hearing in Six Months
(July 12, 2000)
Washington, DC — Today, in a continuation of a comprehensive review of federal farm policy, Chairman Larry Combest (R-TX) convened the House Committee on Agriculture to hear the perspectives of leaders from national farm organizations.
"I have stated at the beginning of each of the field hearings, and I think it is important to note that every Member here knows there are significant problems facing the agricultural sector. I think the previous hearings have served to demonstrate how deep and complex the current challenges are," Combest said. "What's more, we all fundamentally believe that it is in the best interest of this nation to maintain and foster a diverse and strong agricultural sector for the future. And so, the question we want to answer is, 'How best do we accomplish that goal?'"
As leaders of national organizations, today's witnesses testified to a wide a variety of issues affecting farmers and ranchers. In addition to citing perennial problems such as low prices, low yields, and the need to expand international trade, they also pointed to current broad economic issues that put additional strain on producers and their bottom lines. For instance, because of elevated oil prices, producers will face up to $2.6 billion in higher fuel costs this year. In addition, because of the Federal Reserve Board's move to increase interest rates, farm operating loans (which now total approximately $82 billion nationally) may well rise above the 10 percent mark.
"Those of us who represent rural, agricultural districts understand that what Congress does in the next two years will affect the livelihood of farmers, ranchers, and the small town banks and businesses, health care facilities, schools and churches that are so essential to the quality of life in rural America," said Ranking Member Charlie Stenholm (D-TX). "In terms of future agriculture policy, we must work toward the development of a comprehensive program that recognizes the importance of agriculture to our national security and that enables families to make a living in rural America."
Over the past six months, the Agriculture Committee has spent a good deal of time traveling throughout the United States addressing policy issues that affect American farmers and ranchers. In 10 separate field hearings held in California, Idaho, Texas, South Dakota, Illinois, Tennessee, Ohio, Alabama, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, the Committee heard from 181 producers of various commodities. In addition, 235 people submitted written testimony that was made part of permanent record for these hearings.
"Farmers and ranchers are unique in the risk they are required to bear. Producers simply cannot control economic conditions that determine the prices they receive, just like they cannot harness Mother Nature," Combest said. "In January of 1999, this committee turned its attention to the risk management side of the safety net. I am extremely pleased with bipartisan spirit in which we passed the Agricultural Risk Protection Act of 2000. I believe that we owe it to our nation's farmers and ranchers to now turn our full attention to the income side of the safety-net, and build a similar consensus for the development of a comprehensive farm-safety net. We can, and we will."
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