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Farm Bill Priorities

By Rep. Adrian Smith

Tax reform is our main focus in Congress right now, and many beneficial provisions for the agriculture economy are advancing with this effort.  We know farmers and ranchers are weathering uncertain times, and as we get closer to putting a tax reform bill on President Trump’s desk, we also need to get moving on the farm bill.
Over the past few months, I held farm bill listening sessions across the Third District.  These open forums led to constructive discussions about what has and has not worked in the current farm bill.  I have already shared the feedback with a number of my colleagues in Congress.
This week, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway reached out for my input on the priorities we should focus on for the next farm bill.  I highlighted four main themes from my ongoing discussions with Nebraska producers.
First, we must maintain an adequate safety net by keeping crop insurance programs available and affordable for producers.  Many attendees of my farm bill listening sessions stressed the importance of this public-private partnership to their operations.  The 2014 farm bill prioritized crop insurance, which requires buy-in from producers and greatly reduces the need for costly ad hoc disaster payments.  Protecting both producers and taxpayers, crop insurance is a cornerstone of responsible agriculture policy.
Second, we need to ensure the Title I farm commodity provisions such as Price Loss Coverage (PLC) and Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) remain available to producers during times of economic stress.  With the lack of predictability in the agriculture economy, we must keep risk management tools in place.
Third, we should remember the needs of livestock producers in the development of the farm bill.  They face unique challenges, some of which must be resolved outside the bill’s framework, such as expanding market access for their products through trade negotiations.  On the Ways and Means Committee, I continue to work on strengthening and increasing trade opportunities for all producers.  Through the farm bill, we can provide valuable tools like the Market Access Program for export assistance while also addressing issues such as disaster assistance and disease prevention.
Fourth, and perhaps most importantly, we need to complete the farm bill on time.  There is already too much uncertainty for producers with low commodity prices and an uncertain trade environment.  We should not leave them guessing about what the next farm bill will look like when we know they need the information to make decisions about their operations.
The Third District is the top-producing agriculture district in the country due to the hard work day after day, rain or shine, of the farmers and ranchers who put food on our tables and steward the land.  Their industry has inherent risks, but they take those risks because they know how vital their work is to the health and well-being of people across the globe.  Our focus must be on helping to relieve some of the burden of these risks through sound policies.
I look forward to more discussions with Chairman Conaway as we move the farm bill forward.  As chairman of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Resources, I will be working closely with the Agriculture Committee on issues related to the farm bill, namely the nutrition title.  We must look carefully at its effectiveness, ensuring it is focused on those in need while enabling producers to provide more Americans with nutritious food.
We depend on farmers and ranchers for food, feed, fuel, and fiber, and they are depending on us to get a farm bill to the President’s desk.  Let’s give them the tools they need to continue to meet the wide-ranging demands of a growing world.