As Indiana farmers rush to finish planting, the House Ag Committee will begin Farm Bill hearings this week in Washington. One Indiana Congressman expects the House to build on the reforms called for in the Senate Farm Bill. Indiana Congressmen Mike Pence, a former member of the House Ag Committee, has been through several Farm Bill debates and told HAT the House will likely propose widespread reforms in US farm policy, “We have some good prosperity in agriculture, especially here in Indiana. If there ever was a time to introduce more market-based reforms, this the time.”
The Senate is proposing to cut $23 billion from farm program spending. Pence feels the House may cut even more but without hurting key farm programs, like research and conservation, “There is plenty of room in every sector of government to find the kind of savings to change the financial direction of the country.” He feels the Senate Farm Bill is a good start, but is confident the House can “sharpen our pencils when it comes to the House version of the Farm Bill, without compromising out commitment to agriculture.” Pence said he was confident in the leadership of Indiana Congressman Marlin Stutzman, one of only a few farmers that serve on the Ag Committee.
House Ag Committee Chairman Frank Lucas has stated the House will make significant changes to the commodity section of the Farm Bill, “I am disappointed by the Senate bill’s commodity title because it does not work for all of agriculture. It fails to provide producers a viable safety net and instead locks in profit for a couple of commodities. I have made it clear that my chief priority is making certain that the commodity title is equitable and provides a safety net for all covered commodities and all regions of the country. A shallow loss program is not a safety net. It does not provide protection against price declines over multiple years and it does not work for all commodities.” The House hearing set for Tuesday will cover the nutrition and horticulture sections of the bill, including specialty crops. The May 10 hearing will deal with USDA operations and farm credit programs.
Many have said passing a Farm Bill in an election year will be impossible, but Pence feels there is enough bipartisan support for agriculture to get a bill to the House floor, “I think there is a way forward. I think people understand how critically important agriculture is to our nation’s health and economy. I feel we have an obligation to find things we can agree on.”
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