The U.S. House is working its way through its own version of the 2012 Farm Bill. The hearings being held cover all the different titles of the measure. Wednesday, the House Ag Committee Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management held a hearing to explore commodity programs and crop insurance. In his opening remarks, Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., says the committees are wrapping up final hearings before final work on the bill begins.
The work on crop insurance and Title I commodity programs is important. Lucas points to his own experience on an Oklahoma wheat operation: "Remember, I'm from the Southern Plains in a community where the historic rain average is somewhere between 24 and 28 inches. It usually comes in four nights. I know personally that if Mother Nature cooperates, you make a wheat crop. If Mother Nature doesn't, you sort out your finances. This early experience gave me an appreciation for just how challenging agriculture can be. It gave me an appreciation for an effective safety net and crop insurance, and all the other matters this Committee considers."
Lucas charge to the subcommittee essentially was to keep options open so farmers can choose the program that works best for them whether it is protecting revenue or price.
During testimony to the committee, American Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman reemphasized his organization's support of a single commodity option and a strong crop insurance program for the 2012 Farm Bill.
"Continuation of a multi-legged stool remains the best approach for providing a fair and effective safety net, which should consist of a strong crop insurance program, continuation of the current marketing loan provisions and a catastrophic revenue loss program."
Stallman's testimony was based on the premise that the House Ag Committee will draft legislation similar to the move by the Senate to cut spending $23 billion over the next 10 year, with proporational cuts of $15 billion in commodity program reductions, $4 billion in conservation cuts and $4 billion in nutrition program reductions.
There is a proposal floating in the House to cut nutrition programs by $33 billion, a move that Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has been quoted as saying would never happen. In a conference call held Wednesday, Senate Ag Committee leaders say that getting a final farm bill through conference committee won't be difficult. The challenge is to first get the House and Senate versions of the bills finished and ready for floor debate.
AFBF, in its farm bill proposal has prioritized protecting and strengthening federal crop insurance funding and not reducing funding for that program; developing a commodity title that encourages producers to follow market signals rather than making planting decisions in anticipation of government payments; and from basing any program on cost of production.
Stallman also told the Subcommittee that the organization continues to oppose payment limits and means testing of the farm program benefits in general. Payment limits are part of the Senate version of the 2012 Farm Bill.
Testimony on the bill continues through Thursday for this Subcommittee.