As Congress gears up to write another Farm Bill, some of rural America’s representatives have been urging their colleagues to act swiftly in order to keep one of America’s few remaining economic powerhouses productive.
“The time to complete a farm bill is now. This Congress cannot afford to take another jobs bill down to the wire, throwing a key sector of our economy into uncertainty and disarray.
“The Senate Agriculture Committee will mark up a farm bill this spring. Having a bipartisan bill on the president’s desk by this fall would demonstrate the kind of leadership that the public should expect from its elected officials during these tough economic times.”
—Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry
“My overall philosophy is quite simple: Give producers the tools to help them do what they do best, which is to produce the safest, most abundant and most affordable food supply in the world.
“As for policy, I believe the federal crop insurance program is the backbone of the safety net we provide producers. At one point last year, more than 25 percent of the continental United States — including my home state of Oklahoma — was experiencing a severe drought, while many other areas of the country were suffering devastating floods. While improvements to crop insurance can and will be made, these events are clearly beyond the control of producers, and helping them manage risk in a fiscally responsible manner is critical.
“The agriculture community stands willing to do its part in addressing the burgeoning federal debt, but deficit reduction cannot be shouldered by America’s farmers and ranchers alone. “
—Representative Frank Lucas Lucas (R-OK), Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee
“Agriculture is not a red or blue issue, but the framework of what built America. Most of our Founding Fathers were farmers, and understood the value of producing goods at home rather than only relying on imports to sustain our young nation.
“Agriculture has been the steady force in our recovery. In the midst of one of the worst economic downturns in American history, net farm income in 2010 and 2011 hit record highs. These gains have insulated our communities from further job losses and kept grocery prices low.
“Because of the basic realities of their livelihood, agriculture is unique in how producers must plan in advance how they wish to run their businesses. Pushing our work until its politically convenient leaves family farms to guess on the regulations that will govern them down the road. Without a new farm bill, USDA is unable to assist with new difficulties that have arisen since 2008 – such as the expanding citrus diseases – and cut areas that have out lived their usefulness.”
—Representative Henry Cuellar (D-TX), member of the House Agriculture Committee
“Americans enjoy the most abundant, safe and affordable food supply in the world. In fact, Americans spend less than 10 percent of their incomes on food — the lowest in the world. Citizens in many other countries spend over 50 percent of their incomes on food.
“Why is this? Certainly it’s the hard work of American farmers and ranchers, new technology and wise stewardship of our natural resources. But a national farm policy that supports agriculture and provides a safety net for our farmers also plays a role. Agriculture policy has evolved over the years but its primary focus has endured: food security for our nation.
“Serving on the House Agriculture Committee I see the benefits of ensuring a safe, adequate food supply for all Americans. We have seen the vulnerability to our country’s economy and high fuel prices due to our reliance on foreign energy. We must not make the same mistake with our food supply.”
—Representative Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) lives on a working farm, where she and her husband raise corn, soybeans, wheat and cattle
“Likewise, reauthorization of the Farm Bill is occurring during difficult fiscal times. I firmly believe Congress can and should pass a Farm Bill this year, but Congress needs, just like our farmers and ranchers, to roll up its sleeves and deliver a farm safety net that allows our farmers to continue providing our nation’s families with the lowest cost, highest quality food supply in the world.
“Farm programs represent less than one quarter of one percent of federal spending, and yet for that small fraction of the federal budget, the American people get a stable, safe, and affordable food supply. In fact, Americans spend just 9.5 percent of their income on food, less than any other country. In addition, agriculture employs about 14 percent of the U.S. workforce, and agriculture exports generate about 600,000 jobs in the non-farm sector alone.
“When you boil the farm safety net down to its most basic function, it really does come down to risk management. North Dakota farmers have reminded me that the only thing that is certain about the high commodity prices that we have today is that they will change. Not to mention that if you do not have a crop to harvest, high prices do not do you any good – almost a quarter of the acres in my state this year could not be planted due to weather. “
—Senator Hoeven (R-ND), member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry