Lawmakers stressed a need to compromise and provide certainty for farmers during the inaugural meeting of the Farm Bill 2018 Conference Committee on Sept. 5.
The Farm Bill Conference Committee is composed of 56 members, including nine senators and 47 representatives.
The committee is led by Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry; Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan, ranking member on the Senate ag committee; Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee; and Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., ranking member on the House Agriculture Committee.
“The goal, the responsibility, the absolute requirement is to provide farmers, ranchers, growers and everyone within America’s agriculture and food value chain certainty and predictability during these very difficult times. This is paramount to many other issues and concerns,” Roberts said in a media statement.
"Today my colleagues in the House and Senate highlighted the urgency in farm and ranch country and just how desperate times are as net farm income is slated to fall again this year,” Conaway said in a media statement.
The goal is to pass a farm bill before the current bill expires Sept. 30.
Here’s some of what was said during the hearing:
In North Dakota, farmers encouraged their kids to come home and farm. Today, they’re wondering why they did, said North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat. Farmers are wondering how they will pay their operating loans. The farm bill, she said, is needed to give farmers and ag lenders certainty. It needs to be done right, with compromise and a sense of urgency.
“Our responsibility is not to follow in the steps of our predecessors,” said Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., rather it’s to write a farm bill for now and into the futures. He called for increasing CRP acres and addressing the safety net. The most controversial part of the farm bill is the nutrition section, he said, arguing against making it more difficult for consumers who need help to buy products.
“Good farm policy benefits every American, every day, and that’s why we need to work in a timely fashion to pass a strong farm bill into law,” said Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D.
“There is a crisis in farm country,” said Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., telling of sitting across from dairy farmers who are close to going out of business and the 50% decline in farm income in five years. Dairy farmers will not make it on $14 per hundredweight milk, he said. Walz spoke in support of nutrition programs, saying “The farm bill is a reflection of our values.”
Issues lawmakers are talking about include:
- Crop insurance
- Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage
- Conservation and soil stewardship
- Market Access Programs
- Renewable energy
- Research funding
- Beginning farmers
- Programs that aid veterans who want to farm
- Organic agriculture
- Payment limits
You can watch the Farm Bill Conference Committee Meeting here.