Conaway: Farm bill work will start within 2 months
Three additional “Conversations in the Field” listening sessions have been scheduled
» 10:30 a.m., Aug.3, Minnesota Farmfest, Gilfillan Estates, Morgan, Minn.
» Noon, Aug. 5 Modesto, Calif. Location to be announced.
» 9:30 a.m., Aug. 30 — 9:30 a.m., Farm Progress Show, Decatur, Ill.
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway said July 31 his committee will begin work on the next farm bill within the next eight weeks. He also said he wants to get the bill on the House floor this year.
After three hours of listening to farm leaders, Conaway added he wants to bring the bill to the floor of the House in the final quarter of 2017 because he disliked the turmoil of extensions.
The 2014 farm bill expires on Sept. 30, 2018.
According to Conaway, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., wants to write the farm bill in 2017, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said “the sooner the better.”
Cotton and other interests
Cotton was the most prominent farm product discussed at the hearing, but almost everything in the farm bill came up at one point or another during a true listening session in which Texas leaders made statements for more than three hours and the members of the committee didn’t ask question.
A series of cotton growers and other farm leaders urged the committee to include cotton in the commodity title of the program. Cotton was taken out in 2014 to satisfy a World Trade Organization case the United States lost to Brazil after a panel decided the U.S. cotton program caused damage to Brazilian farmers because it interfered with world markets.
Eddie McBride, president and CEO of the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce, urged the committee to take action “before the entire industry is lost.”
Farm leaders also called for the continuation of crop insurance and commodity, conservation and foreign market development and promotion programs.
The hearing showed the diversity of interest in the farm bill in Texas.
A series of Texas anti-hunger and nutrition leaders urged the committee to continue the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and the federal commodity distribution programs.
Representatives of organic agriculture, farmers markets and the nascent U.S. hemp and olive industries asked that their interests aren’t ignored in the farm bill.
Besides Conaway members who attended the event included ranking member Collin Peterson, Reps. Jodey Arrington, R-Texas, David Rouzer, R-N.C., Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., Rodney Davis, R-Ill., Roger Marshall, R-Kan., and Darren Soto, D-Fla.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue was not in attendance as originally planned because President Donald Trump called a cabinet meeting to introduce Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly as his new chief of staff. ❖