Farm Bill: House Ag. Comm. Field Hearing- Saranac Lake, New York
Hearing: Overview- Background
On Friday, seven members (Chairman, Frank Lucas (R., Okla.), David Scott (D., Ga.), Vice Chairman, Bob Goodlatte (R., Va.), Bill Owens (D., N.Y.), Mike Conaway (R., Tex.), Chellie Pingree (D., Maine), and Rep. Chris Gibson (R., N.Y.)) of the House Agriculture Committee gathered in Saranac Lake, New York, for the first of four field hearings to hear testimony from producers that focused mostly on dairy issues, and concerns from specialty crop growers.
Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) noted this week at The Hill Online that, “Americans overwhelmingly agree that the nation’s top two priorities should be creating jobs and reducing the deficit. The farm bill, set to expire this year, gives Congress the opportunity to pass bipartisan legislation to accomplish both.
“That’s why Congress must pass a strong farm bill this year and not kick the can down the road with a short-term, Band-Aid extension, as has become all-too-common in Washington.
“The farm bill is a jobs bill. Farm bill programs give small businesses and farmers critical tools that help them invest and grow.”
At the opening of the hearing, Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow noted that, “Local food programs represent a very small percentage of the Farm Bill, but they make a very big impact in our communities: Creating jobs and improving access to locally grown foods.”
The Michigan Democrat, who is up for reelection this year, emphasized that, “The continued success of the agricultural economy and the continued growth of jobs in agriculture require both, not either or – both- traditional production agriculture, as well as local efforts.” (related audio (MP3- 0:44)).
Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) noted yesterday at The Hill’s Congress Blog that, “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.”
Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) and Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind.) penned a column yesterday at The Hill’s Congress Blog (“REFRESH Act: Strengthen rural communities and U.S. energy security”), which stated in part that, “The House and Senate will consider a new Farm Bill at a time when Americans are struggling with climbing energy costs. This nation deserves strategic policies that promote economic growth, enhance our energy security, and work to save Americans’ money. This will require a comprehensive approach that incorporates more domestic oil, biofuels, fuel-saving innovations, and trade with our Canadian partners.
“An overlooked source for innovative energy policies is America’s farm program. As Hoosier members of the Senate and House Agriculture Committees, we laid out responsible energy policies when we introduced the REFRESH Act last fall. The REFRESH Act brings real reforms to farm policy and, by simplifying and consolidating the previous Farm Bill’s energy title, encourages diverse fuels, efficiency investments, and new energy opportunities for rural entrepreneurs.”
Chris Clayton reported yesterday at the DTN Ag Policy Blog that, “House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson told members of the National Farmers Union on Sunday he was optimistic about chances for passing a farm bill this year, but there are hurdles such as a push for steeper cuts in the agriculture budget.
“Peterson, a Democrat from Minnesota, spoke Sunday night as the National Farmers Union opened its 110th annual convention in Omaha.
“The Senate and House Agriculture Committees are operating under the assumption that they will cut $23 billion out of the baseline spending on agricultural programs over the next 10 years. But House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has not committed to a number and President Obama’s budget proposal last month aimed for closer to $32 billion in agricultural cuts. The president’s budget proposal may push other lawmakers to demand even more cuts from the Agriculture Committees.”
DTN Ag Policy Editor Chris Clayton reported yesterday that, “The four farm groups at Commodity Classic are stressing they want to see a farm bill completed in 2012, but leaders acknowledge they remain divided on aspects of changing the farm programs.
“After an afternoon meeting Thursday, leaders of the American Soybean Association, National Corn Growers Association, National Sorghum Producers and National Association of Wheat Growers issued a joint statement urging Congress to pass a new farm bill in 2012 and not simply adopt an extension of current policies. Further, they reiterated their support for crop insurance as the key safety net for producers.
“‘As Congress continues work on the next farm bill, our organizations agree that an affordable crop insurance program is our No. 1 priority. We also stand ready to work with House and Senate Ag Committee leaders to create farm programs that provide risk-management tools to growers when they are facing a loss beyond their control.’”
DTN Political Correspondent Jerry Hagstrom reported yesterday that, “Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow said Tuesday that she moved up the dates of the last two farm bill hearings so that her committee can move more quickly toward marking up the bill.
“‘We just want a little bit more time to negotiate,’ Stabenow, D-Mich., told reporters after a hearing on conservation, and noting that she would like to finish the markup as soon as possible.
“Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Pat Roberts, R-Kan., has said he believes the committee will finish its work by Memorial Day.”