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Chairman Vela Opening Remarks at Subcommittee Hearing on How Farm Policy Helps Farmers in Adverse Conditions

WASHINGTON (June 20, 2019) – House Agriculture Committee Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management Chairman Filemon Vela of Texas delivered the following remarks at the subcommittee hearing on how farm policy helps farmers in adverse conditions.

[As prepared for delivery]

“Good morning and thank you all for joining us here today to discuss how farm policy helps farmers take on the challenges they face this year.

“Today’s set of Federal farm programs is generally designed to assist farmers when they are most in need. At no time is that need more apparent than in the farm economy right now.

“Farmers are looking at losses due to severe weather events, particularly as a result of flooding and a wet spring planting season. Excessive moisture on cropland has delayed planting for many farmers in the Midwest. The Agriculture Department’s crop progress report, which was released on Monday, shows that the corn crop has still not been fully planted, and many farmers are making decisions to switch to soybeans or a cover crop. Last week, the World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates report described this year’s planting delays as “unprecedented.”

“Commodity prices have been generally low for several years. Reduced foreign demand as a result of the trade war has made this situation worse.

“The risk management system is structured to assist farmers in both of these types of cases, and many operations across the country are in fact confronted with both challenges.

“Through multiple hearings on several subcommittees, we’ve well-documented the pain currently in the farm economy: farm bankruptcies are up, farm profits are down, prices are in the tank, credit is tight, and the weather’s been not only terrible, it’s compounding the already-present hardships for farmers.

“This subcommittee heard from several farmers at a hearing last month, and how a struggling farm economy has affected their operations. At our hearing today, we will examine how farm policies help farmers in tough times.

“Crop insurance is a publicly-supported program delivered by private companies and agents that provides timely assistance to farmers. Farmers can customize their coverage and can choose how to best manage their risk, and they can expect timely service and assistance when they suffer a loss.

“Standing disaster programs run by USDA are designed to respond when certain disasters strike. Emergency disaster programs, which are authorized in response to particularly extreme or large-scale disaster events, have also been enacted in recent years and are providing assistance.

“Additionally, existing commodity programs, as authorized in Title I of the farm bill, provide a baseline level of support when prices fall.

“Today’s witnesses know the importance of these programs and policies, and speak from a wide range of experiences in working with the farm safety net. I look forward to each of your testimony, because I know the conversation on crop insurance isn’t an easy one. At a time when every federal dollar is scrutinized, I appreciate the challenge facing the industry to explain how crop insurance works and why it’s such an indispensable part of the farm safety net. If there is a silver lining to this economic storm, it’s that there’s never been a clearer need for programs like these that help to keep our farm families in operation.”

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