Commodity programs and crop insurance were the focus of a two-day hearing that began on Wednesday, and is the third hearing series on agriculture policy in advance of writing the 2012 Farm Bill. Title I programs and crop insurance form the backbone of the farm safety net that ensures farmers are able to manage a few seasons of volatile prices or devastating weather patterns. This effort ultimately ensures that consumers have a stable food and fiber supply.
The four panels of witnesses included economists and leaders from various commodity and agricultural groups highlighting the diversity of agriculture across the country. Witnesses described how programs are working under current law and how reforms can be made while stressing the need for a fair and effective safety net and a strong crop insurance program.
"The clear message from the hearing is that farmers need price protection. If prices collapse, we can't have policy that collapses right along with them creating a crisis in farm country and calls for expensive, unbudgeted bailouts in Washington. Calls that cannot be answered because the government is broke. I have concerns that the Senate bill fails to provide that kind of protection. The Senate bill also creates a complicated new program that is so lopsided it actually locks in profits for some while denying any safety net at all to others. In a few weeks, the House Agriculture Committee  will begin crafting a farm bill that is both fair and fiscally responsible to all producers across all regions of the country. Our efforts will save money for the taxpayer while providing policy that farmers can depend on when they truly need it," said Chairman K. Michael Conaway (R-TX).
"Yesterday and today we were reminded that the details are critical when designing programs to provide farmers with assurance and a safety net. I am pleased that over the course of our two-day hearing we heard from commodity groups, economists and insurance agents that we must preserve crop insurance and other farm safety mechanisms that allow producers to feed America and the world. To no surprise, our farmers and ranchers have stepped up to the plate and are ready and willing to dig through the weeds with us to craft policy that will benefit all producers. We must continue to work together to move forward on a House  farm bill so that we can go to conference and negotiate a final bill that will assist our farmers and feed our communities before further budget cuts place these important programs in jeopardy," said Ranking Member Leonard L. Boswell (D-IA).
May 16 Hearing witnesses included (links are PDF downloads):
- Dr. Joe Outlaw,  Professor and Extension Economist, Department of Agricultural Economics, Co-Director, Agricultural and Food Policy Center, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX
- Dr. Gary Schnitkey,  Professor, Department of Agriculture and Consumer Economics, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL
- Dr. Keith Collins,  Economic Advisor to National Crop Insurance Services, Former USDA Chief Economist, Centreville, VA
- Mr. Chip Bowling,  Board Member, National Corn Growers Association, Newburg, MD
- Mrs. Linda C. Raun,  Chairwoman, USA Rice Producer's Group, Partner, LR Farms, El Campo, TX
- Mr. Bob Stallman,  President, American Farm Bureau Federation, Columbus, TX
- Mr. Dee Vaughan,  President, Southwest Council of Agribusiness, Dumas, TX
- Mr. Chuck Coley,  Chairman, National Cotton Council, Vienna, GA
- Mr. Scott Brown,  President, National Barley Growers Association, Soda Springs, ID
May 17 hearing witnesses
- Mr. Erik Younggren,  President, National Association of Wheat Growers, Hallock, MN
- Mr. Armond Morris,  Chairman, Southern Peanut Farmers Federation, Irwinville, GA
- Mr. Roger Johnson,  President, National Farmers Union, Washington, D.C.
- Mr. J.B. Stewart,  Vice Chairman, National Sorghum Producers, Keyes, OK
- Mr. Steve Wellman,  President, American Soybean Association, Syracuse, NE
- Mr. Jim Thompson,  Chairman, USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council, Farmington, WA
- Ms. Ruth Gerdes,  President, The Auburn Agency Crop Insurance, Inc., Auburn, NE; on behalf of the Crop Insurance Professionals Association
- Mr. Brian M. McSherry,  President, McSherry Agency, Inc., Flanagan, IL; on behalf of the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America
- Mr. Tim Weber,  President, Crop Insurance Division. Great American Insurance Company, Cincinnati, OH