Farm Bill Conference Committee holds first public meeting
On Sept. 5, Farm Bill Conference Committee members laid out their priorities for the next farm bill. Members’ statements touched on the key points they would like to see included in the final bill and noted numerous difficulties facing American farmers and ranchers.
The conferees made it clear they share a sense of urgency to complete the legislation before the 2014 farm bill expires on Sept. 30.
“Today my colleagues in the House and Senate highlighted the urgency in farm and ranch country and just how desperate times are as net farm income is slated to fall again this year. While I’m pleased with progress on the farm bill – we must pick up the pace,” said House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-Texas). “We still have a lot of work to do, but I believe we can get this done on time.”
Net farm income has fallen by 50 percent since 2013 and is facing the additional pressure from the U.S.’ trade conflict with China.
“It is not an exaggeration to say our nation’s food and fiber production capability hangs in the balance with what we do here on this legislation. Time is of the essence. Let us work together to get this done,” said Conference Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kansas).
Rep. Austin Scott (R-Georgia 8th District) emphasized the need for certainty in farm legislation to allow for adequate planning for coming crop years, including the need for flexibility in selecting between safety net programs.
“Farmers across the country have different needs and different risks associated with their operations,” Austin Scott said. “This legislation should protect farmers from massive losses caused by natural disasters, like the devastating freeze in 2017 for Georgia blueberry and peach producers, or other events outside their control.”
Scott voiced his support for including House farm bill language establishing work requirements for able-bodied Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients. That provision is one of the biggest sticking points in the negotiations; Senate Ag Committee Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan) said they make no sense.
Rep. David Scott (D-Georgia 13th District) said the farm bill the committee is tasked with finalizing is already an example of bipartisanship in Congress, and he pointed to the inclusion of $95 million funding for the Land Grant 1890 African American colleges and universities in the Senate version of the bill.
“Let’s make sure that nothing happens during this discussion, during these Farm Bill negotiations, that in any way would jeopardize the $95 million dollars. We’re almost to the finish line,” David Scott said.
The Conference Committee leadership – Roberts, Conaway, Stabenow and House Ag Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-Minnesota) are continuing negotiations.