WASHINGTON D.C. –U.S. Senator John Boozman, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee expressed strong concerns about new commodity programs and lack of protection for southern farmers during today’s Farm Bill markup.
“This nation has a diverse fabric of agriculture with a variety of risks, and we must write a Farm Bill that serves as a safety net for all crops and regions,” said Boozman. “The commodity title, as it is currently written, will have a devastating impact on southern agriculture which relies heavily on irrigation and, therefore, benefits less from Crop Insurance.”
Although the Farm Bill includes important reforms, exceeds required committee spending reductions and eliminates duplicative or obsolete government programs, Boozman is very concerned that the untested, one-size-fits-all revenue plan will not work for southern producers.
“A safety net that works for all our nation’s producers of food and fiber must include producer choices that cover their risk. Although there are choices in this revenue plan to meet the needs of several other crops and regions, this proposal falls short of the protection southern farmers need against multi-year price declines,” Boozman said.
Boozman expressed concerns that a revenue plan may work for some people when prices are high, but a multi-year price decline could expose the gaps in coverage.
“I am very concerned that this proposal is couched in the assumption that we will continue to have these high commodity prices. A revenue plan is attractive when prices are high, but I am not sure there is anything in this plan that protects producers from a multi-year price decline and an untested, one-size-fits-all program, with no producer choice could leave many producers vulnerable,” Boozman said during the markup.
Boozman also expressed concerns about the ability for producers to demonstrate a level of coverage sufficient to get operating loans.
“Even with a reference price, this revenue plan may not even be strong enough for our farmers to get operating loans,” Boozman said during the markup.
Boozman believes that the bill does not do enough to end waste and abuse in the nutrition program and reinvest those savings in ways that fight hunger and encourage nutrition. For this reason, he introduced an amendment to fully close the LIHEAP loophole, saving $13.9 billion. The amendment would reinvest some of the savings by increasing reimbursement rates for the School Breakfast and Lunch programs to help states and municipalities cope with higher costs resulting from unfunded increases in federal nutrition standards.
Boozman opposed final passage of the bill, but expressed his commitment to working with his colleagues to get a Farm Bill done that protects all crops and regions this year.
“With all of the members of this committee working together to give up their fair share and get back what they need, we can build the consensus necessary to usher a Farm Bill through the legislative process and see it signed into law this year. We can do this while preserving the safety net, making reforms, and achieving deficit reduction. I am confident that we can craft a bill that we are all proud of, and I look forward to continuing to work with the Chair, Ranking Member, and all the members of this Committee and seeing this through,” Boozman said during his opening statement.
Boozman also proposed amendments to:
- Address the Department of Labor’s onerous on farm child labor regulations by transferring authority over those regulations to the Secretary of Agriculture. Boozman said “this would bring a common-sense perspective to the issue instead of the heavy-handed response proposed now by people who don’t have any concept at all about what it is like to be in a farm family.”
- Clarify language from the 2008 Farm Bill relating to FSA office closures by specifying criteria as 20 “road” miles and ensure that office could not be closed under the criteria of 2 or fewer employees if that number was achieved as a result of USDA action; such as offering early retirement or transferring employees
- Reign in onerous regulations that increase the cost of food.
To watch or read Boozman's opening remarks during the markup click here.