05.06.17

Chairman Roberts Holds Second Farm Bill Hearing in Michigan

FRANKENMUTH, Mich. – U.S. Senator Pat Roberts, R-Kan., Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, today held the second hearing on the 2018 Farm Bill in Frankenmuth, Mich., titled, “Growing Jobs and Economic Opportunity: Perspectives on the 2018 Farm Bill from Michigan.”

“Just as we did during our recent hearing in Kansas, it is important for us to get out of Washington to hear directly from folks about the Farm Bill where it matters most: on our farms, ranches, businesses, and communities across the country,” said Chairman Roberts.  

“Year after year, America’s farmers and ranchers overcome drought, disease, floods, fires, freezes, tornados, embargos, and even their own government, to produce the safest, most abundant, and affordable food and fiber supply the world has ever known.  

“All of agriculture is struggling, not just one or two commodities. During the last Farm Bill debate, the agriculture sector enjoyed high prices. Now, we face multiple years of low prices, across the board.  

“Senator Stabenow and I are working to make Washington understand the differences between the economic conditions then and what you’re facing now. You all understand that. Washington needs to as well.”

Chairman Roberts and Ranking Member Stabenow heard from two panels of witnesses affected by various titles of the Farm Bill. 

Click here to watch the hearing. Additional hearings on the upcoming Farm Bill reauthorization will take place in Washington. 

Below are Chairman Roberts’ remarks, as prepared for delivery: 

Before we get started, I want to recognize and thank several Michigan farmers, ranchers, and other citizens as well as the Director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Jaime Clover Adams.

As many of you have surely heard, in March, Kansas farmers and ranchers were hit by the largest prairie fire on private land in our state’s history and perhaps our country. Folks back home lost their homes, cattle, facilities, fencing…their livelihoods, but not their futures.  

Producers in Michigan, and elsewhere in the country, stepped up to help with recovery efforts—raising private funds and sending hay, materials to rebuild, and other assistance to Kansas. And for that, we are extremely grateful. 

These generous activities illustrate the “can do” attitude and the “bootstrap” mentality that makes rural America so special—regardless if you call Kansas, or Michigan, or any other state home. 

Just as we did during our recent visit to Kansas…it is important for us to get out of Washington to hear directly from folks about the Farm Bill where it matters most…on our farms, ranches, businesses, and communities across the country.  

Producers, agribusinesses, and our rural communities are the ones who sign up for programs, comply with regulations, and feel the pain first-hand of over-burdensome or under-supportive policies. 

Year after year, America’s farmers and ranchers overcome drought, disease, floods, fires, freezes, tornados, embargos, and even their own government, to produce the safest, most abundant, and affordable food and fiber supply the world has ever known.  

Your experience – your story – is what we need to hear before we start writing a new Farm Bill. 

I think you know that passing a new bill won’t be easy. That’s why your help in crafting a bill that meets the needs of producers across all regions and all crops is absolutely necessary. Note that I said all regions and all crops.  

All of agriculture is struggling, not just one or two commodities. During the last Farm Bill debate, the agriculture sector enjoyed high prices. Now, we face multiple years of low prices, across the board.  

Senator Stabenow and I are working to make Washington understand the differences between the economic conditions then and what you’re facing now. You all understand that…Washington needs to as well.   

To those who say passing a Farm Bill in this environment is a daunting task, I say together we can get it done. We must embrace the attitude of our producers…optimism and ingenuity. A farmer plants the seed believing in a good harvest. 

At the same time our government is spending money it doesn’t have. Our national debt exceeds $19 trillion…that’s trillion with a “T.”  

Agriculture, and specifically the Farm Bill, has consistently answered the call to do more with less. The last Farm Bill voluntarily cut spending. The previous crop insurance contract with the Agriculture Department cut $6 billion from the program. I could go on and on where ag has already given at the store. Farmers, ranchers, and rural families understand fiscal responsibility.  

Therefore, we must be judicious with the scarce resources we have. We must ensure programs accomplish their fundamental purposes. We must ask tough questions and reexamine programs to determine their effectiveness.   

Now is the time to examine the core mission of USDA programs to ensure they are operating as intended.  And if they are not, then we must refocus them. 

We need bold thinking and new ideas to address today’s challenges during tough economic times.  

Let us not forget that the global population is rapidly approaching 9 billion people.  Agriculture production will need to double in the near future to meet demand.  Accomplishing this task requires efficiency, not just on the farm and ranch, but also certainly…certainly…in the government.     

Feeding an increasing global population is not simply an agriculture challenge, it is a national security challenge. Show me a country that cannot feed itself, and I’ll show you a nation in chaos. 

This means we need to grow more and raise more with fewer resources. That will take research, new technology, lines of credit, and proper risk management. It takes the government providing an adequate safety net, and then getting out of the producer’s way. 

So, that is why we are here today…to hear from the entire value chain of agriculture on what is working, what is not, and how we can improve.  

Thank you to all of our witnesses for taking time to provide your advice and perspective. Thank you to those in the audience for being here. 

For those who want to provide additional thoughts on the Farm Bill, we have set up an email address on the Senate Ag Committee’s website to collect your input into the Farm Bill discussion.  

Please go to ag.senate.gov and click on the Farm Bill Hearing box on the left-hand side of the screen. You can send us your own input for the committee to consider as we write the next Farm Bill. That link will be open for 5 business days following today’s hearing. 

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