From The Ground Up - “Ag Committee Chair Looks Ahead To Next Farm Bill”

Published: Nov. 17, 2016 at 3:29 AM CST
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The debate that preceded the passage of the 2014 Farm Bill was the most contentious in recent history. Overseeing the farm bill is one of the primary responsibilities the Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture has, and the current committee chair

is hopeful that the combination of the tough years agriculture has recently endured along with a change of administration in Washington will make it easier to point out why an agriculture safety net is needed. Mike Conaway is a U.S. Congressman who represents Texas’ 11th Congressional District.

“The last time we did a farm bill in 2014 our production agriculture industry was having really good times. Commodity prices were good. People were doing really well, and it was hard to make the argument to the skeptics as to why you needed that safety net.”

Conaway is also Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture.

“”Well, 2018, I don’t think that’s going to be the case. We’ve already experienced a 42% drop in production farm income. That’s not going to get any better the next two crop years, so when we’re writing the 2018 Farm Bill, I will have the backdrop of the carnage that is the production agriculture economics, to say here’s why we need to keep these folks in business. This is why you have a safety net for times like these. It’s not for the 2013 or 2014 time frame. It’s for times like this.”

Conaway says some of his congressional colleagues don’t understand the relationship between what they do with the Farm Bill and the prices their constituents pay at the grocery store.

“And so I’ve got to do a better job, we all have to do a better job of explaining why it’s important to maintain this safety net. It’ll be a little less difficult in 2018 because I don’t think the overall farm economy is going to be very good at that point in time, and we’ll be able to point to the reasons why we need a safety net.”

Conaway is also optimistic about working with the new administration in Washington.

“Mike Pence is currently or has been the governor of Indiana. He’s been dealing with constituents as an executive, who have been living the wreck that has been the production agriculture economy over the last three years. That’s a perspective none of the other candidates have. Even Mr. Trump doesn’t have that perspective. He, as you heard earlier, Mr. Trump said he was going to let Mr. Pence handle the ag piece, so I anticipate having a much more receptive audience with Mr. Pence, and whoever he chooses and they choose collectively to be Secretary of Ag to be a partner as we write this new Farm Bill. “