WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, & Forestry, today released the following opening statement – as prepared for delivery – at the hearing entitled “Commodities, Credit, and Crop Insurance: Perspectives on Risk Management Tools and Trends for the 2018 Farm Bill.”
Stabenow’s statement, as prepared for delivery, follows:
Thank you Senator Roberts for holding this very important hearing.
I’ve always said that agriculture is the riskiest business there is. From floods to drought, a sudden turn in the weather can change everything for a farmer.
Even on perfect sunny days in Michigan, commodity prices can drop unexpectedly due to global events and bring sudden uncertainty to a farmers’ bottom line.
Despite the risks they face day to day, our producers persevere through all odds to grow food for our families and drive our economy forward.
Still, farmers sometimes need a leg up on the unknown to help them recover from losses outside of their control. The old subsidy system didn’t meet the needs of our farmers and either paid too much or too little—regardless of actual losses.
That’s why in the 2014 Farm Bill we made historic reforms to end direct payments and created new tools for our farmers to better manage their risk and protect their farms and families from devastating losses.
By transitioning to commonsense risk management, we now provide support for those who need it most when they need it.
Over 90% of Michigan farmers selected the Agriculture Risk Coverage that has protected against both price and yield declines. By and large, this new approach is working.
However, the one big exception has been the dairy safety net. I’ve heard from dairy farmers throughout Michigan and other states who have paid into the Margin Protection Program and received nothing in return during their time of need.
Last week, I’m happy to say that we took the first step towards closing the gaps in the dairy safety net.
Thanks to the hard work of Senator Cochran and Senator Leahy, who lead the Appropriations Committee and also serve on this committee, the Appropriations Bill includes help for both our dairy and cotton farmers.
Not only does this give dairy farmers an interim improvement to their safety net, but it also sets the stage for the next Farm Bill.
Looking ahead, we need to make sure the farm safety net is responsive to the needs of all farmers, without recreating the old system of indefensible subsidies that paid farmers even when times were good.
When it is available, crop insurance is one of, if not the most important risk management tool for our producers. But historically, it hasn’t been available to some of the farmers who need it most.
That’s why I have fought to expand and strengthen crop insurance for all farmers, from expanding coverage to specialty crop growers, organic producers, and beginning farmers, to providing a whole-farm option for diversified farms.
I’m committed to continuing to build on this progress by working with USDA to expand and improve the insurance options for dairy farms.
Along with tools to help farmers manage risk, it’s also critical that we create opportunities to help farmers start and expand their operations.
The Farm Bill provides many resources, like access to credit, microloans, conservation programs, and training to help new farmers get their start in agriculture.
We need to ensure USDA has producer-facing technology that opens the door for young and beginning farmers to carry on the legacy of American agriculture.
There are also many returning veterans who are looking for post-service careers on the farm.
At our Farm Bill Field Hearing in Michigan, we heard from an Army veteran who shared how outreach programs in the 2014 Farm Bill have helped veterans access loans to kick-start their farms.
The Farm Bill is all about expanding opportunities. The farm policy we craft in this room should ensure that every farmer can start, expand and protect their farm and livelihood.