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Conaway’s greatest fear: crop insurance fraud

-The Hagstrom Report
Rep. Michael Conawy, R-Texas, the House Agriculture Committee ranking member and former chairman of the committee, speaks at the Crop Insurance Industry Annual Convention.
Photo by Jerry Hagstrom/The Hagstrom Report

BONITA SPRINGS, Fla. — House Agriculture Committee ranking member Michael Conaway, R-Texas, who is retiring, said here Monday that his greatest fear about crop insurance is a fraud case.

Farmers and the crop insurance industry have done an impressive job of staving off efforts to gut the program, but a fraud case “could end up on ‘60 Minutes’” and cause public opinion about the program to shift, Conaway said during a panel discussion with current and former aides about the 2014 and 2018 farm bills.

Public opinion can change quickly, he said, urging the industry to be diligent about management of the crop insurance program.

Conaway also noted that some farm bill programs like the cotton STAX program don’t work out as planned.

“One of the values of doing (the farm bill) every five years is that you get to fix the things that didn’t work like you expect. If it is not working it is not working,” he said.

Conaway noted that the House Republican proposal to make changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program did not end up in the conference report on the bill but that Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue is trying to make some of those changes through administrative rules.

Those Trump administration rules “will be part of the conversation” in 2023, Conaway said.

Asked about the Heritage Foundation’s views on agricultural policy, Conaway said “The Heritage Foundation is devoid of national security argument about food.”

Before the discussion, Conaway gave what amounted to a farewell speech.

Noting that his only connection to agriculture before he was elected to the House was that he ate, Conaway teared up when he said that to win the support of other Agriculture committee members to chair the committee was “a high honor.” Conaway served as chairman from 2015–2019.

He also ended his speech by making a moral argument that he has made frequently when speaking to agriculture groups.

“The Norman Rockwell America we know and love is rural America,” he said, adding that the success of the United States is based on “moral” and “religious” standards that have been violated because the country has “murdered 63 million babies in 45 years.”

Americans are also engaging in “lifestyle” choices that are “not God’s way,” Conaway said, adding that for God to continue to bless the United States, the country needs to return to its “Judeo-Christian roots.”

Conaway said these views cannot be legislated, but are up to every person in the audience.

Every time Conaway makes these statements there are people in the audience who privately say they object to his views and wish he would stick to agriculture, but the crop insurers gave him a standing ovation at the end.

The crop insurance industry presented Conaway its Distinguished Service Award “in gratitude for his 16 years of outstanding service and dedication to both crop insurance and American agriculture as a whole.’


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