Opening Statement of Chairman Lucas at Subcommittee Hearing on the Formulation of the 2012 Farm Bill: Commodity Programs & Crop Insurance

May 16, 2012 Issues: Farm Bill

Tamara Hinton, 202.225.0184

I want to thank Chairman Conaway and Ranking Member Boswell for holding today’s hearing to review commodity programs and crop insurance as we prepare for the next Farm Bill.

Last June, the Committee started the farm bill process by holding 11 audit hearings - focusing our attention on the U.S. Department of Agriculture - to look for ways to improve programs for farmers, increase efficiency and reduce spending.

We then went out to the countryside this spring to hear directly from producers in the field. Now we are in the midst of wrapping up our final hearing series in Washington before we begin writing legislation.

Along with crop insurance, Title I programs establish the very fabric of the farm safety net. They ensure that dramatic swings in commodity prices and volatile weather don’t put farmers and ranchers out of business. Further, they ensure that we – as consumers - always have a stable food and fiber supply.

That safety net has to exist for all regions and all crops, and it has to be written with bad times in mind. These programs should not guarantee that the good times are the best, but rather that the bad times are manageable.

Like the many farmers we heard from during our field hearings, I know firsthand about the challenges we’re trying to mitigate with sound farm policy.

I started my first farming operation with a wheat crop that put me in a financial squeeze. The second wheat crop performed better. It matched the historic record for the farm. The difference between those two crop seasons was rain. It rained at the right time for the second crop; it didn’t for the first.
Remember, I’m from the Southern Plains in a community where the historic rain average is somewhere between 24 and 28 inches. It usually comes in four nights. I know personally that if Mother Nature cooperates, you make a wheat crop. If Mother Nature doesn’t, you sort out your finances.

This early experience gave me an appreciation for just how challenging agriculture can be. It gave me an appreciation for an effective safety net and crop insurance, and all the other matters this Committee considers.

Our farmers and ranchers have to deal with the uncertainties of weather, the insecurities of markets, and many times dramatically unfair foreign competition, so it’s critical that we get policy right. With all the challenges that our producers face, farm policy can’t be one of them.

To that end, as I have said many times, farm policy has to be equitable. The Farm Bill that we craft has to recognize the diversity of agriculture in America. It has to work for all regions and all commodities.

That’s why it is vitally important that the Commodity Title provide producers with options so they can choose the program that works best for them whether it is protecting revenue or price.

Additionally, the Agriculture Committee has heard very clearly from producers about the importance of crop insurance. I am committed to providing a strong crop insurance program for them.

Today and tomorrow, we’ll hear from economists and a variety of agricultural leaders. I thank you for sharing your valuable insight with us. The road ahead of us won’t be easy. 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.