The House Agriculture Committee convened its third farm bill hearing in Arkansas on Friday. After holding hearings in New York and Illinois, the committee heard from farmers in the Mid-South, although much of what they had to say echoed the comments the committee has heard in other areas. According to House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., the main focus was on an effective safety net, choice of risk management tools and certainty when it comes to regulations.
"As we visit with producers from different regions of the country, the overriding message we're hearing is just how important it is to provide a choice of policy options in the next farm bill," Lucas said. "In order for our farmers to be successful and continue to provide the quality food and fiber that we all expect and enjoy, we need to give them the necessary tools to manage risk no matter what type of crop they're growing."
Cotton and rice producers were well represented at this field hearing, but their concerns were much the same as producers of other commodities. Randy Veach, President of the Arkansas Farm Bureau and a farmer from Manila, spoke about the importance of agriculture to the country.
"We must as a nation get our house in order, and agriculture is ready to do it part in that effort," Veach said. "We feel across-the-board cuts are the fairest way to reduce our country’s spending. We cannot balance the federal budget on the backs of agriculture, and the cuts should not be so severe that eliminate the safety net that helps ensure adequate supplies of food and fiber. I feel, in fact, that agriculture is critical to our national security."
Veach went on to discuss the need for the next farm bill to be crafted to benefit all sectors of agriculture and the need for it to be written this year. Bowen Flowers, a producer from Clarksdale, Miss., shared that view.
"With respect to production agriculture, I encourage this committee to take into consideration the diversity of production practices, cost structures, and risk profiles; a one-size-fits all farm program can not address this diversity and I hope the eventual farm bill will offer a range of programs structured to address the needs of different commodities and production regions," Flowers said. "I also urge the committee to complete the farm bill this year in advance of the expiration of current legislation. We need some certainty regarding farm programs as we look at the long-term investments necessary to keep our farming operations economically viable."
The final House Agriculture Committee field hearing on the farm bill is scheduled for April 20, 2012 in Dodge City, Kan.