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Chairman Roberts: Senate Leadership Commits to Bipartisan Fix to Restore Crop Insurance in Omnibus

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Having secured a commitment from House and Senate leadership to restore the federal crop insurance program in a year-end spending bill, U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., today announced his support for the Bipartisan Budget Act to ensure crop insurance remains the most important risk management tool for American producers.

“I am pleased House and Senate leadership have listened to our concerns and have agreed to restore funds to crop insurance,” Roberts said. “I have worked my entire career to build crop insurance as a public/private partnership that best protects producers and taxpayers. With this agreement today, the Bipartisan Budget Act has my support, and I look forward to working with Ranking Member Stabenow to ensure crop insurance, the number one priority of farmers across the nation, remains their best protection.”

Chairman Roberts today participated in a colloquy on the Senate floor with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Thune, R-S.D., regarding the Bipartisan Budget Act.

At issue is section 201 of the Bipartisan Budget Act that made damaging cuts to the federal crop insurance program. In the colloquy, Chairman Roberts, Leader Mitch McConnell and others affirmed their commitment to find bipartisan alternative deficit reduction savings during consideration of an omnibus appropriations bill later this year. Watch the colloquy here.

The following is text of the colloquy as prepared for delivery between Leader McConnell, Chairman Roberts, Sen. Cornyn and Sen. Thune:

Senator Roberts:

            Mr. President, I rise to engage in a colloquy with the distinguished Republican Leader, Majority Whip, and the Senior Senator from South Dakota with regard to a commitment made between all of us here. This commitment is in reference to the obvious need to remedy the language adversely affecting our nation’s farmers and ranchers now included in the Bipartisan Budget Act. This provision, Section 201, included in the underlying bill, should it go into effect, would greatly damage the crop insurance program as we know it. The commitment we have reached is to reverse these damaging cuts and policy changes to the crop insurance program in order to protect our producers’ primary risk management tool and their number one priority. The legislative action, or fix, will take place in consideration of the year end spending bill. I have been working with House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway who has reached a similar agreement with the House Leadership. We have all agreed here to restore these funds to the program, and reverse this policy, and do so with support from the House and the Senate.

Leader McConnell:

            Mr. President, I want to thank the Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee for his diligent work on behalf of America’s farmers and rural communities. I have discussed with the Chairman his concerns about the fiscal agreement’s crop insurance provisions and their impact on farmers – concerns which are shared by our counterparts in the House of Representatives. I also have concerns about what the changes to the crop insurance program will mean for the farmers of Kentucky, several of whom I’ve heard from over the past two days. Farming has been a long tradition in my state. Kentucky is made up largely of smaller family farms – farms that have been passed down for generations. These folks rely heavily on the notion that a bad crop yield year will not stop their ability to continue farming because of the certainty provided through this program. It is our joint understanding that House Leaders will work to reverse these crop insurance changes and find bipartisan alternative deficit reduction savings when they consider an omnibus appropriations bill later this year. I want to assure my friend from Kansas that I will work closely with him to support the House in these efforts.

Senator Cornyn:

            Mr. President, I want to thank Leader McConnell, Chairman Roberts, and Senator Thune for their cooperation and commitment to address this concern. I also want to thank Chairman Conaway for his steadfast support of America’s farmers and ranchers in the House of Representatives. Texas farmers and ranchers are no stranger to the perils caused by drought and other weather related events beyond their control, and with the current regulatory environment and unforeseen perils they face, I understand the necessity and viability of the crop insurance program to their livelihoods. I too stand in support of working with my colleagues to find a solution to this problem. 

Senator Thune:

            Mr. President, I rise as well in support of restoring the devastating cuts to crop insurance imposed by the Bipartisan Budget Act. Crop insurance plays a critical role in supporting South Dakota agriculture – its number one industry. Crop losses due to drought, wind, hail, and excessive moisture provide the greatest challenges to economic survival and sustainability in production agriculture – and crop insurance provides the only viable risk management tool to meet these challenges. It is imperative that we preserve crop insurance and maintain its viability. I support the agreement discussed on the floor today, and I will work with the Leader, Chairman, and my Senate colleagues to find a reasonable alternative to unworkable cuts to crop insurance found in Section 201 of the Bipartisan Budget Act. I thank the Majority Leader, the Majority Whip and our Chairman of the Agriculture committee for their commitment to our farming families and rural economies. I ask Chairman Roberts through the President, if the House has reached a similar agreement.   

Senator Roberts:

            Mr. President, I respond to my friend that yes, Chairman Conaway has reached a bipartisan agreement with the House Leadership. It is time for the Senate to respond. I appreciate the work of my colleagues and the work of our Ranking Member Senator Stabenow for raising the issue and for helping to find an agreement. I have worked my entire career to build crop insurance as a public/private partnership that best protects producers and taxpayers. This agreement reached today continues in that effort to fulfill that mission. I thank the Majority Leader, the Majority Whip and Senator Thune for their commitment. I also thank many of our colleagues who helped us reach this solution today. Mr. President, I yield the floor.