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Protecting our Farmers and Ranchers

By Chairman K.Michael Conaway (TX-11)

America is blessed with the safest, most affordable, and most abundant food and fiber supply mankind has ever known. This is made possible thanks to the men and women who dutifully care for their crops and livestock each and every day. Most factors that affect a farmer’s livelihood — like unpredictable weather events, fluctuations in commodity markets, and the predatory trade practices of foreign governments — are completely out of their control.

These factors have collided over the past several years, leading to very tough times in farm country. In fact, net farm income has dropped 50 percent over the last four years, the largest four-year percentage drop since the start of the Great Depression.

As Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, my focus is on ensuring that the farm safety net in the next farm bill works for our nation's farmers and ranchers, including our nation's cotton farmers.  Spending on the farm safety net is well within our allowable limits in the World Trade Organization (WTO), and it pales in comparison to support being provided by other countries. For example, on corn, rice, and wheat — in 2015 alone — the Chinese government exceeded its allowable subsidy limits in the WTO by an estimated $100 billion. That’s more than the entire safety net costs over the life of a farm bill — plus more than half of another farm bill.  It's also more than the United States has spent on the entire federal crop insurance system over the past 20 years combined.

Beyond the farm safety net, the farm bill includes a variety of other important policies, including our voluntary, incentive-based conservation programs, trade promotion and market development initiatives, international food aid, and agricultural research, just to name a few.  The farm bill also authorizes the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which provides vital nutrition assistance for some of our nation's most vulnerable citizens.  As we begin our work to reauthorize the farm bill, we are examining all of these topics in a series of subcommittee hearings. We are also planning a series of listening sessions that we will host around the country this summer to hear directly from producers.

National Ag Day reminds us of the hard, life-sustaining work of our farmers and ranchers. The work they do is important, and it's important that we provide the tools they need to be successful.