"We depend on the stability and certainly of long-term farm
policy," said Blake Gerard, a rice, soybean, wheat and corn
producer from McClure. "Without farm policy, U.S. producers
would be unilaterally exposed to global markets distorted by
withering-high foreign subsidies and tariffs, and have no
comprehensive safety net."
Gerard wasn't alone in his
sentiments. Nearly all members of the 10-person panel described
the need for a five-year farm bill to be passed this year to
help give them some stability when planning for the future.
About 300 people attended the hearing, which was the second
of four field hearings planned. The 46-member House Committee on
Agriculture hopes the hearings, which are to be conducted at
different locations across the country, will allow them to
better understand what the nation's farmers want to see included
in the next farm bill.
"We want to give producers the tools to do what they do best
-- produce the safest, most abundant food supply in the world,"
said Frank Lucas, R-Okla., committee chairman. "We're here to
In addition to urging committee members to pass a new farm
bill without temporary extensions, many of the farmers in
attendance reiterated the need for strong, consistent crop
"I firmly believe the No. 1 goal for the next farm bill
should be, 'Do no harm to federal crop insurance,'" said John
Williams, a sorghum, corn, wheat and soybean farmer from
McLeansboro. "Crop insurance is a safety net in times of
Overwhelmingly, farmers and legislators agreed with Williams.
However, safety net programs in the farm bill must be tailored
to specific parts of the country, as host and House Committee on
Agriculture member Rep. Bobby Schilling, R-Ill., pointed out
when he asked farmer Terry Davis of Roseville what his thoughts
were on strengthening crop insurance.
"Realignment of the loss ratio here in Illinois would help
strengthen crop insurance greatly," Davis responded. "I'm paying
substantially more for my insurance than the payout. We need
crop insurance to make sure that the crop gets raised next year
-- not the crop you've lost this year, but ensures that you get
the crop out next year."
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In a time of fiscal crisis across the country, panelists said they
understood the need to cut the federal deficit and trim spending,
but agriculture shouldn't be the only industry to shoulder the
"We recognize that in the current budget environment, farm
programs are a target for interests that either oppose them in
principle or want to fund other priorities," testified Deb Moore, a
corn, soybean and beef producer from Roseville. "I am willing to
accept our fair share of budget costs, but in proportion to other
programs that may be explored for budget cuts."
While the need for a strong safety net in the form of federal
crop insurance was discussed at length by most farmers, it certainly
wasn't the only topic of discussion.
In addition to Lucas and Schilling, committee members in
attendance -- including Rep. Leonard Boswell, D-Iowa; Rep. Mike
Conaway, R-Texas; and Rep. Randy Hultgren, R-Ill. -- asked pointed
questions of panelists about subjects inside and out of the farm
bill, including communicating with consumers.
During the questioning, Schilling asked Moore about her
involvement with the Illinois Farm Families program and how she
communicates with consumers about federally subsidized crop
insurance and the farm bill.
Committee members also asked panelists about conservation
compliance, securing credit for new farmers, Department of Labor
revisions to child labor laws, input costs, the loss of direct
payments, overregulation and immigration.
news release received from Illinois Farm