House ag chairman expects timely farm bill

by Ron Sterk
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Chairman K. Michael Conaway
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway said he expects the 2018 farm bill to be completed on time.
 

SAN DIEGO House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway said Aug. 8 he expected the 2018 farm bill to be completed on time, echoing sentiments of farm leaders a day earlier at the International Sweetener Symposium in San Diego.

“It’s time to go to work on getting the next farm bill done,” Mr. Conaway said. “We’re going to get this done on time” so it can be in place Oct. 1, 2018. He noted that the Trump administration is on record as saying it wants a strong farm bill.

Optimism for timely completion of the farm bill was a common theme from leaders of the two largest U.S. farm organizations the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Farmers Union  who spoke at the symposium on Monday. Mr. Conaway and those farm leaders also emphasized the importance of grassroots involvement with Congress in the early stages of the farm bill.

“Overall, production agriculture has suffered a really difficult four years,” Mr. Conaway told the group. But, he said, if there’s a silver lining to the difficult economic realities facing rural America right now, it’s that farm bills are usually easier to write when times are tough because it is easier to explain to others in Congress why farmers need strong policies to help manage risk.

Mr. Conaway and other committee members have heard a lot about falling farm incomes and low commodity prices as they’ve traveled the country conducting farm bill listening sessions.  This week, they were in Modesto, Calif., having previously visited Morgan, Minn., San Angelo, Texas, and Gainesville, Fla., to talk with producers about the next farm bill. 

He hopes to conclude farm bill hearings soon and have legislation ready for floor deliberation in late 2017 or early 2018.

“As we go through this farm bill, the lens I’m going to drive every decision through is what does it do to the cost of food,” he said, explaining that current farm policies are delivering “the most abundant, safest and affordable food and fiber supply of any developed nation in the world.”

Current sugar policy is a big part of the farm bill, and Mr. Conaway applauded the policy for its $0 budget and past success in keeping prices stable and affordable.
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