In what was the Senate Agriculture Committee’s largest Farm Bill hearing in the 115th Congress, the Committee heard Tuesday from agriculture producers, general farm organizations, crop insurance professionals, as well as agriculture lenders on what is working and what needs to be changed in the upcoming Farm Bill reauthorization.
“This year, I’ve met with agriculture producers from across the country,” said U.S. Senator Pat Roberts, R-Kan., Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry. “Those conversations have demonstrated that all of agriculture is struggling with low prices, not just one or two commodities or regions.”
“While they work every day to feed and clothe us, America’s farmers and ranchers are at the mercy of Mother Nature when it comes to the weather on their farms. The High Plains are in the middle of damaging drought, while areas in the South are still drying out from flooding and tropical storms.”
“When producers put seeds in the ground, they do not expect a hail storm to hit right as they are ready to harvest their crops. They would much rather reap the benefits of their hard work in the marketplace than receive an indemnity. The last Farm bill made significant changes, and unlike previous policies, today’s commodity programs—like crop insurance—are triggered only when there is a loss.”
Crop insurance and commodity title programs have been critical for helping farmers survive sustained low commodity prices, and they should be maintained in the next farm bill, National Corn Growers Association Board member Bruce Rohwer testified.
“Crop insurance and commodity title programs are particularly important to family farmers who earn a majority of their household income from the farm. Without crop insurance and commodity title payments, the financial wherewithal of these farms would likely face serious erosion in the current environment,” said Rohwer, who raises corn and soybeans and runs a sow farrow-to-finish operation in Paullina, Iowa.
Rohwer noted that corn prices have averaged below $4.00 per bushel since 2013, and are projected to average $3.35 this marketing year. The annual crop value of corn fell from nearly $77 billion in 2011 to just over $51 billion in 2016, the effects of which have been felt throughout the agriculture industry. Restoring a strong farm economy is good not only for farmers, but also the businesses they support, Rohwer testified.
“The sharp drop in farm income increases the financial stress for farmers, as well as employees of agriculture-related businesses, such as equipment manufacturers. Everyone tied to the ag economy is affected,” said Rohwer.
“That’s why it is more important than ever to strengthen our position in current markets and develop new uses to increase demand for our crop. A robust livestock industry, expanding exports, and a growing renewable fuels industry are central to corn farmers achieving more profitable and resilient farm operations.”
In the meantime, Rohwer testified, commodity title programs and the federal crop insurance program are essential risk management tools for farmers, and they must be maintained in the 2018 Farm Bill.
“Overall, the commodity program reforms authorized in the 2014 Farm Bill have performed as they were designed. They are delivering assistance when it’s needed, and only when it’s needed.”
This marks the seventh hearing in preparation for the upcoming Farm Bill reauthorization.