WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR), ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, released the following opening remarks, as prepared, at the hearing entitled “Farm Bill 2023: Commodity Programs, Crop Insurance, and Credit.”
Undersecretary Bonnie, Administrator Bunge and Administrator Ducheneaux, thank you for being here.
America’s farmers rely on the safety net created by the commodity, crop insurance and credit programs you oversee. The tremendous financial risk inherent to agriculture has only increased since the last farm bill. The 2023 farm bill must provide our producers with the risk management tools required to farm and ranch in this new reality. The current safety net has frayed and is in dire need of meaningful reinforcement.
When I meet with farmers across Arkansas, they share their hopes and fears with me. The hope is that their children will one day take over the family farm. The fear is, of course, that this will not happen, through no fault of their own. Our producers are one trade war, natural disaster, market downturn or geopolitical conflict away from having to sell the farm. A newly reinforced safety net is essential if the United States would like our farmers and ranchers to continue to produce the most abundant, most affordable, and safest food supply in the world.
Climate change and nutrition programs have seen dramatic increases in funding while farm safety net resources have dwindled. In 2021, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) increased Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) funding by a quarter of a trillion dollars, using a flawed process as the U.S. Government Accountability Office recently reported. This last year the reconciliation process added $37 billion in funding to USDA conservation, forestry and rural development programs.
However, neither the administration nor the reconciliation process have done anything to bolster the safety net.
The risk in farming has never been greater. Farm production costs are estimated to be $460 billion this year, a record. Crop prices are likely to decline in the coming years, but prices for many of our major commodities would have to drop sharply before the current Title I Price Loss Coverage safety net would start to work. Corn prices, for example, would have to decline by 46 percent before farmers would receive help. By the time corn prices fell that low, significant damage would have already been done. Farm bill programs collectively result in public benefits across the rural and urban landscape and we owe it to all Americans to ensure the bottom does not fall out of agriculture. We cannot only focus on certain programs and ignore others when all farm bill programs are necessary to achieve economic sustainability for our farmers and ranchers and rural communities.
The farm safety net can work for all producers—large or small, organic or conventional, farms established a century ago or those just starting out. The important thing is that we all–producers, consumers, Congress, and the administration–stand together in support of a strong and resilient safety net. The next farm bill must work for those that feed and clothe us.
I hope today’s hearing will help bring these issues to light. I hope producers will hear the assurances they deserve. That the administration and Congress understand the need to strengthen the farm safety net. I know that if we listen to our farmers and ranchers we will find a way to provide the right tools to manage risk now and in the future.
Thank you all again for being here today. I thank the chairwoman for calling this morning’s hearing.