"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
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 listen."
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 insurance.
"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 disaster."
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
"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