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House Ag Committee Chair Conaway on Crop Insurance, Farm Bill


House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway wants to begin work on the next farm bill as soon as possible. Conaway says a strong safety-net has helped farmers and ranchers weather the recent downturn in the agriculture economy. He says crop insurance has played a vital role for agriculture, and has worked well for producers during the recent challenges…

“Well, it’s an integral part, I don’t think we could maintain the overall safety net without it. There is no replacement for crop insurance, it is working well. Farmers count on it, bankers count on it, implement dealers count on it, in a kind of a second-hand basis for farmers are able to us it properly. So, no crop insurance is vital to the safety net that we currently have in place, and I see no replacement for it in the future. The public/private partnership on the delivery side is key to its success, we’ve increased acres under crop insurance. It’s working, and working well. And as you’ve seen me in the past, I’ve worked really hard to protect crop insurance in the past, and I’ll continue to do that.”

As for the next farm bill, he says the process is already underway…

“Sub-committees will each hold a couple of hearings in the next six to eight weeks, their area of purview on each of the sub-committees. We’ll also do listening sessions around the country, I’m currently waiting on the committee budget, so I’ll know how much money I have to work with so I know how many of these listening sessions I’m going to have.

But, I want to hear from not only the leadership from the various producer groups, going to hear from rank-and-file folks as well. So, we’ll head around the country and listen to people and what’s on their mind.

We’re going to lay the ground work now to be able to pull the trigger on something whenever we can begin to look at floor time we may have. So, the committee will be ready when that floor time becomes available, over the next 17-18 months, and we can get this thing done on time.”

When it comes to changes to the farm bill, he explains what lawmakers will be considering…

“Pretty consistent theme, is the milk program, it has some issues that we need to deal with, cotton, the STAX insurance program, that did not work, and then concerns with county ARC program payments, in that they’ve got a real differential between payments across county lines. Cotton will be the biggest big change, but the others will be more fine-tuning of the ’14 farm bill, I don’t anticipate wholesale sweeping changes like we did in ’14 where we did away with direct payments and moved to these other programs. I think it will be more of a case of understanding how those programs worked and where they need to be made better on a going forward basis.”

Conaway says he and his colleagues will be working to get the farm bill finished on time…

“Colin Peterson and I plan on getting this thing done before the current one expires on September 30 of ’18. There’s no reason not to, it’s been 16 years since we did one of these on time, and there’s no real good reason for the drama associated with expirations, or extensions, or short-term things like that. We just need to get our work done.

He and I are going to drive this process to get it done. We’ll obviously need some help in the Senate with Pat Roberts and Debbie Stabenow, but for us in the House, we’re going to work real hard to get this thing done on time.”


Source: Rhonda Garrison, Southern Farm Network

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