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Honoring America’s farmers and ranchers

By Mike Conaway

America's farmers and ranchers are undeniably some of the most dedicated and humble individuals in this country. Without complaint, rain or shine, they simply wake up and work hard because that is what's needed to keep our country running.

But despite their best efforts, America's farmers and ranchers are facing real challenges today. Net farm income is estimated to fall 56 percent from 2013 to 2016, the largest three-year percentage drop since the Great Depression. The problem is even more pronounced in Texas, where we saw years of drought while other states were harvesting record yields at record prices.

Cotton producers have been hit especially hard the last few years. They were, in large part, met with very little support in the last farm bill in an effort to settle a World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute with Brazil. The Chinese and Indian governments have taken advantage of this situation, stimulating massive overproduction of cotton in the process. China alone is now sitting on so much cotton that if you lined the bales up end to end, they would stretch around the earth twice. That's enough cotton to make 78.5 billion T-shirts. Their reckless actions have driven global cotton prices into the ground, making it that much more difficult for our cotton producers to stay afloat.

While our farmers and ranchers face markets that are neither free nor fair, they also put their livelihoods on the line every day in an industry where several factors are completely outside of their control. A single hailstorm, windstorm or flood can wipe out an entire year's income in a single day. While it is easy to take the bounty that our farmers and ranchers produce for granted, it is vital they have risk management tools available to mitigate the tremendous uncertainties they face.

To that end, when crop insurance came under attack in budget negotiations last fall — threatening the very existence of privately-delivered crop insurance — we stepped in to prevent those cuts from taking effect. The agricultural community has repeatedly done its part to contribute to deficit reduction. Protecting the remaining risk management tools available to our farmers and ranchers is one of my top priorities.

This national Ag Day reminds us of the importance of agriculture, to both rural and urban America. The state of the rural economy affects everyone, not just those in areas where most jobs are directly linked to production agriculture. I am proud to stand with America's hardworking farmers and ranchers today and every day.