Tamara Hinton, 202.225.0184
Good morning, and thank you all for joining us today for this Farm Bill field hearing. I’d also like to thank Congressman Crawford for hosting us today.
These field hearings are a continuation of what my good friend and Ranking Member Collin Peterson started in the spring of 2010. Today, we’ll build upon the information we gathered in those hearings, as well as the 11 farm policy audits we conducted this past summer.
We used those audits as an opportunity to thoroughly evaluate farm programs to identify areas where we could improve efficiency.
The field hearings serve a slightly different purpose. Today, we’re here to listen.
I talk to producers all the time back in Oklahoma. I see them in the feed store and I meet them at my town hall meetings. And of course, I get regular updates from my boss back on our ranch. But the conditions and crops in Oklahoma are different than what you’ll find here in Arkansas.
In New York we heard how specialty crop growers and dairy producers utilize farm programs. In Illinois, we heard about the importance of crop insurance for corn and soybean producers.
Today, we’ll hear from a wide variety of producers from across the Southeast. I expect we’ll hear a different perspective than we got in the Northeast and Midwest.
That’s why it’s so important that we offer a choice of policy options. The broad range of agricultural production makes our country strong, but it also creates challenges when we’re trying to write a single Farm Bill to support so many different regions and commodities.
While each sector has unique concerns when it comes to farm policy, I’d like to share some of my general goals for the next Farm Bill.
First and foremost, I want to give producers the tools to help you do what you do best, and that is to produce the safest, most abundant, most affordable food supply in the world.
To do this we must develop a farm bill that works for all regions and all commodities. I recognize that the challenges you face here in the Southeast are different than the conditions facing producers in Illinois or New York. I also recognize that even within commodities, different programs work better for different regions.
That’s why it is vitally important that the Commodity Title give producers options so that they can choose the program that works best for them.
I also am committed to providing a strong crop insurance program.
Now, I know that crop insurance—while a valuable tool for many producers—doesn’t work as well for producers down here.
That’s why offering an array of programs is important and why we must work with the Risk Management Agency to improve crop insurance products for rice, peanuts and other crops that do not have higher buy-up levels.
Lastly, we’ll work to ensure that producers can continue using conservation programs to protect our natural resources.
I’m interested to hear how producers in this area of the country use the conservation programs. I’m particularly curious as to your thoughts on how to simplify that process so they are easier for our farmers and ranchers to use.
Beyond those priorities, I know there are a number of universal concerns facing agriculture across the country.
For instance, my producers in Oklahoma are worried about regulations coming down from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and how they must comply with those regulations.
I’m also aware that the death tax is creating difficulties for farming operations. I want to hear how these federal policies are affecting producers here.
Today, we’ll be hearing from a selection of producers. Unfortunately, we just don’t have time to hear from everybody who would like to share their perspective. But we have a place on our website where you can submit those comments in writing.
You can visit http://agriculture.house.gov/farmbill to find that form. You can also find that address on the postcards available on the table here.
As I said before, we don’t have an easy road ahead of us. But I’m confident that by working together, we can craft a Farm Bill that continues to support the success story that is American agriculture.