Commodity Organizations Appear Before Committee to Review Federal Farm Policy
(July 19, 2000)
Washington, DC — Today, the House Committee on Agriculture held the fourteenth hearing in a series designed to provide a comprehensive review of federal farm policy. Chairman Larry Combest (R-TX) convened the panel today to hear the views of leaders from national commodity organizations.
"We all know there are unique and severe problems facing agriculture today. I believe we have seen in previous hearings just how complex these challenges can be and have come to understand that a single, simple solution won't suddenly appear before us," Combest said. "That said, it is important to note that 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?'"
The witnesses at today's hearing expressed continued support for the flexibility allowed producers under the 1996 Farm Bill. Nevertheless, due to three consecutive years of depressed commodity prices, they each stated the necessity of providing counter-cyclical aid to producers. In addition, the witnesses expressed strong support for expanding international trade and other marketing programs.
"In 1999, roughly half of the net farm income could be attributed to crop production; income assistance to crop growers represented about one third of crop production net income," said Ranking Committee Member Charlie Stenholm (D-TX). "Without substantial improvement in market values, crop producers will need annual assistance at 1999 levels in order to maintain current income levels. The responsible course of action for Congress is to develop a continuous program to meet the needs of U.S. agriculture."
Over the past six months, the Agriculture Committee has traveled 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 face not only the unique economic risks associated with agriculture, but also face weather conditions completely beyond their control. Beginning last January, this committee turned its attention to providing a better safety net for weather-related and similar risks," Combest said. "While I'm extremely pleased with bipartisan spirit in which we passed legislation to improve crop insurance, we now have the opportunity to focus on the economic side of the safety-net and build a similar consensus for that as well. This will ultimately lead us to comprehensive farm policy that provides protection for the many risks our nation's producers face in bringing quality food and fiber to people worldwide."
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