Roberts, Stabenow hear 21 witnesses at farm bill hearing
MANHATTAN, Kan. — Twenty-one Kansas witnesses made suggestions to Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., on how to make changes to the farm bill to address much more difficult times than when the 2008 and 2014 farm bills were passed.
Roberts noted that by bringing the hearing home to Kansas State University, he was fulfilling a promise when he became chairman to involve farmers in policy making. Stabenow noted that the committee will hold a hearing at Michigan State University in Lansing, and an aide said that the hearing is likely to be held in late March or April.
Most of the proposals involved relatively modest changes to the commodity and conservation programs, but a dairy industry witness noted that the Margin Protection Program is not working and suggested that dairy farmers should have access to another risk management program as well.
Kent Moore, executive director of the Kansas Corn Growers Association, suggested that since farmers are reluctant to respond to surveys the Farm Service Agency uses in determining county-level farm program benefits, USDA should use Risk Management Agency statistics. (See links to witness testimony.)
Cherise Tieben, city manager of Dodge City, Kan., said that Roberts’ intervention for an upward adjustment to the population limit for USDA housing programs had allowed the city to get $9.9 million in loans for the construction of housing that has allowed “the retention of existing businesses, the ability of existing businesses to grow and improves opportunities to recruit new business to our community.”
Stabenow stressed the importance of a bipartisan coalition to pass a new farm bill. “Agriculture needs a big tent coalition of farmers, ranchers, commodity groups, rural economic development and food access advocates, bio energy leaders and conservationists working together,“ Stabenow said.
At the end of the hearing, Roberts promised, as he has previously, that “there will be a next farm bill.”
To the tough economic times, Roberts said, Congress must find a “solution within the budget and the trade rules.”
Then Roberts, who at a press conference before the hearing had said the biggest issues in agriculture are trade and President Donald Trump’s uncertain trade agenda, said, “I hope we have trade rules, I hope we have trade opportunities.”
–The Hagstrom Report