Op-Ed

Conaway: Texas Values at the Heart of Farm Bill Talks

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Washington, July 31, 2017 | comments
Via San Angelo Standard-Times
By Chairman K. Michael Conaway (TX-11)

The history of Texas is found in its dirt.

It was written by generations of farmers and ranchers who coaxed life out of our hardscrabble countryside, pioneering families who braved the wilderness and established communities like San Angelo that we still call home today. Every Texan since has reaped blessings from the land they tamed, the wisdom they shared and the values they instilled.

Wisdom about the land, its people and the business of farming and ranching forms the foundation of our communities. Values like hard work, grit, self-reliance, respect and humility are the code that we live by in rural Texas. This legacy has shaped each of us and provides Texans with a unique and important perspective on life, agriculture and conservation. Perspectives that are at the heart of our nation’s farm policy.

As Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, which is preparing to craft our nation’s next farm bill, these are the perspectives I seek. So over the next several months, my colleagues and I are taking the opportunity to hear from stakeholders from across the country about what is and isn’t working in U.S. agricultural policy. And I can think of no better qualified or more important people to hear from than the heirs to over two hundred years of accumulated wisdom: the farmers and ranchers of West Texas.

On July 31, San Angelo will play host to a farm bill listening session. Several members of the Agriculture Committee will be at Angelo State University to hear from those who know what farm policy works and what doesn’t.

I don’t need to tell you that times are tough in farm country. With net-farm income dropping by 50 percent over the past four years, the agricultural economy has experienced the largest four-year percentage drop since the Great Depression. Now, more than ever, we need a farm bill to address the concerns facing production agriculture and all of rural America.

This certainly rings true for my friends in cotton country. While countries like China and India are pouring billions of dollars into subsidies for fiber production each year, America’s cotton producers have been struggling to scrape by without a safety net to help them manage through these tough times. I’m committed to finding a solution to address the situation for those cotton farmers in need.

But our work doesn’t end there. Agriculture in Texas and the surrounding region is as wide and diverse as its people. And the farm bill is essential to maintaining the vibrant agricultural economy for which Texas is known. Texas provides the country with an abundance of products including cotton, corn, sorghum, peanuts, sugarcane, wheat and rice as well as citrus, fruits and nursery products. The state leads the nation in livestock production and is also the home to a number of well-respected colleges and universities where agricultural research and extension programs remain a top priority, including Angelo State.

Understanding the budget constraints our country faces, production agriculture will need to work together to reach an affordable, effective safety net that benefits farmers, ranchers and consumers alike. While tough choices are undoubtedly upon us, I believe we can craft a farm bill that represents all commodities and stakeholders as we work together to ensure the U.S. continues to enjoy the most abundant and affordable food and fiber supply in the world.

I speak for the whole Committee when I say we are eager for the input of Texas producers and stakeholders. We want to know what policy changes would benefit you and your industry and believe it is essential we ensure all commodities and stakeholders have an opportunity to share their ideas for improvements. I look forward to a productive conversation in San Angelo and as always, God bless Texas and God bless the United States of America.

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