House Ag Chairman Conaway’s Floor Remarks on 2018 Farm Bill05/17/2018
Remarks as prepared for delivery for general debate on H.R.2 on the House floor:
Mr. Chairman/Madam Chairwoman, I rise today in strong support of H.R. 2, the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018-more commonly known as the Farm Bill.
I do so proudly because I still believe that rural America and our farm and ranch families are the backbone of this country. Our farmers and ranchers ensure that Americans across this great country pay the lowest grocery bills in the world. They also land us a rare trade surplus while creating 21 million American jobs.
In the Heartland, agriculture is the lifeblood of the economy. When agriculture does well, Main Street does well – and when agriculture is suffering, so is Main Street.
But, beyond the economic contributions, rural America and our nation’s farmers and ranchers are imbued with values that I deeply cherish. The values of faith and family. Of God, country, and duty. Of neighbor helping neighbor, hard work, and personal responsibility.
In short, Mr. Chairman/Madam Chairwoman, rural America and our nation’s farmers and ranchers make America great. I expect that is why the President of the United States strongly supports this Farm Bill and urges its passage.
Times are not good right now in the Heartland. Our nation’s farmers and ranchers are struggling in the midst of a five year recession with no end in sight. Net farm income has been cut in half over this period of time. As a result, rural America is not partaking in the economic recovery that urban counterparts are experiencing.
There are many reasons behind the hard times in farm and ranch country. I will briefly discuss two.
In my home town of Midland, Texas, we have received about 1 inch of rain over the past 195 days. Drought is ravaging my state. Last year, we saw record losses due to hurricanes and wildfires. And, to the north, in the Ranking Member’s home state, farmers are struggling to get into the fields to plant -although it’s the middle of May. The fact is, the men and women who clothe and feed us in a manner that is absolutely unrivaled in world history are the ones hit first and hardest when Mother Nature strikes.
A second reason for current conditions is another factor totally beyond the control of our farm and ranch families: the predatory trade practices of foreign countries.
For the sake of brevity I will offer just one example. In just one year, China over-subsidized just three crops by more than $100 billion. Put in perspective, the entire safety net for all of our farmers and ranchers under this farm bill is expected to cost 64 percent of the amount China spent on illegal subsidies…in one year…on just three crops.
Mr. Chairman/Madam Chairwoman, the global market is awash with high and rising foreign subsidies, tariffs, and non-tariff trade barriers and they are hurting our farmers and ranchers.
What can we do about that? Heed the calls of the President of the United States and the Secretary of Agriculture and pass this farm bill.
No, this farm bill is not a cure for all that ails rural America and our farmers and ranchers. But, this farm bill does provide a safety net to see them through these hard times.
For my colleagues interested in the budgetary impacts of this farm bill, H.R. 2 keeps faith with taxpayers, with CBO now projecting more than $112 billion in savings – nearly 5 times what was pledged back in 2014.
There are many other aspects to this farm bill, but I am going to touch briefly on just three.
First, Secretary Perdue has shown great leadership on two particular issues that are extremely important to rural America. The opioid epidemic that is ravaging rural America needs an aggressive, effective response. And the lack of broadband in many parts of rural America put farmers and ranchers and rural communities at a terrible disadvantage.
The Secretary is determined to tackle these problems and has asked for the tools he needs to make it happen-this farm bill provides those tools.
And, second, it is no secret that we do not have a bipartisan farm bill process at the moment.
I regret this deeply. Ultimately, Democrats and Republicans chose to agree to disagree on the question of whether work-capable adults should work or get free work training for 20 hours per week to be eligible for SNAP benefits.
I respect my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, but I do want to be clear about something: this farm bill in no way, shape, or form disrespects Americans who depend on SNAP. To the contrary, the farm bill keeps faith with SNAP beneficiaries, providing needed benefits AND something more: the dignity that comes from work and the promise of a better life that a job brings.
I want these Americans to realize the American dream.
Finally, in closing, I want to note that there is a cottage industry in this town that is determined to defeat this farm bill. They want this House to ignore the realities of Mother Nature and the predatory trade practices of foreign countries and turn your back on farm and ranch families struggling to hang on in the face of hard times.
Mr. Chairman/Madam Chairwoman, not on our watch. I urge my colleagues to stand by the hard-working families that put food on our tables and clothes on our backs and still live every day by the values that make this country truly great.
Stand up for rural America. Pass this farm bill.
I reserve the balance of my time.