Stabenow, Boozman, Thompson: Farm bill must address new issues

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., ranking member Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., and House Agriculture Committee ranking member Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson, R-Pa., all told the North American Agricultural Journalists in separate appearances last week that the next farm bill needs to address problems that did not exist when the 2018 farm bill was written.

In a Zoom session, Stabenow said there is “a series of new challenges” — the pandemic, the supply chain, the cost of food, consolidation, the climate crisis.

“Severe weather is hitting our growers every single day,” Stabenow said, adding that the number of risks to farmers and ranchers is multiplying and “the intensity of what we are seeing is only greater.”

With all these problems, Stabenow said that if there isn’t a larger baseline for the bill it will be “very challenging.”

Also in a Zoom session, Boozman said that when work first started, the idea was to “tweak” the 2018 bill, but now there are high input costs, questions about the supply chain and the impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Boozman added that he is “really concerned about catastrophes.” If the government is going to provide assistance in these situations, there should be a program to do it, he said.

Boozman also pointed out that Arkansas has 75 counties and that 53 of them lost population in the last 10 years. Agriculture is 25% of the Arkansas economy but 85 to 90% in some of the rural counties, he added. Boozman said he would “concentrate” on the issue of rural population loss in the bill.

Thompson said that even though House Agriculture Committee Chairman David Scott, D-Ga., has held a number of hearings on the farm bill, he believes the committee is “way behind” compared with the listening sessions around the country held during the runup to writing previous bills.

Thompson added, however, he works well with Scott, whom he considers “a friend, a great colleague, a statesman.”

Thompson noted that he has been traveling around the country, meeting farmers and ranchers.

There needs to be “debate” on high input costs, he said. Whatever is done on disaster aid, he added, “should not impede crop insurance, not discourage people from signing up for that program.”

He said he believes that on the dairy program, “I think we got it right” because aid is based on the margin between prices and cost of production.

Thompson said he wants to “create conditions to repopulate rural America,” adding he “sometimes” believes “our No. 1 export is our young people.”


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