Tamara Hinton, 202.225.0184
Good morning, and thank you all for joining us today for our final Farm Bill field hearing. Congressman Huelskamp, thank you for hosting us in your district.
I want to thank our witnesses for joining us today, and extend a particular welcome to Scott Neufeld who has come up from my home state of Oklahoma.
This hearing is a continuation of a process that 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 I can tell you that the past three field hearings have demonstrated the tremendous diversity of agriculture in this country.
We started in New York, where the farming operations tend to be smaller and there were probably more trees in one acre than you have in most counties here in Kansas. We learned how farm policy affects specialty crop growers and dairy producers in the Northeast.
Next up was Illinois, where we saw vast corn and soybean fields and heard how crop insurance is a critical risk management tool for farmers in the Corn Belt.
In Arkansas we saw quite a few irrigated fields and we heard why crop insurance isn’t quite as effective at risk management in the Southeast.
Today, we’ll hear from a wide variety of producers who will no doubt have a different perspective than we got in those other regions.
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. It has to take into account the diversity of agriculture in America. 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 whether it is by protecting revenue or price.
I also am committed to providing a strong crop insurance program for our producers. The Committee has heard loud and clear the importance of crop insurance and it will be the backbone of our safety net.
We will look for areas to improve crop insurance as we move forward.
Lastly, we’ll work to ensure that producers can continue using conservation programs to protect our natural resources.
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 www.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.