Farmers give input on 2018 Farm Bill

August 2, 2017

Partially written By Michelle Gaitan

Generational farmers, ranchers and others invested in agriculture showed up to be heard during a committee listening session hosted by U.S.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway (R-Midland) and Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-Minnesota) on Monday.

The 3-hour session titled, “The Next Farm Bill, Conversations in the Field,” was at Angelo State University’s C.J. Davidson Conference Center.

“Do you guys know how important you are?” Dan Arttos, with the Texas Grain Sorghum Association, asked the committee. “You’re our advocates. We live out here in the middle of the country, and it’s how you set policy, how you sale what has to take place for rural America to thrive.”

Arttos told the committee they were in his prayers because they are “our hope”

“Without you guys, we don’t get very far,” he said.

The session’s intent was to gather input from farmers, ranchers and stakeholders around the country.

Besides Conaway and Peterson, House Ag Committee Members Rep. Jodey Arrington (R-Lubbock), Rep. David Rouzer (R- North Carolina), Rep. Roger Marshall (R-Kansas), Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Illinois) and Rep. Darren Soto (D-Florida) attended.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue was unable to attend.

Additional sessions are scheduled in Morgan, Minnesota, on Aug. 3, Modesto, California, Aug. 5, and Aug. 30, in Decatur, Illinois.

A repeated comment heard at the session was cotton needs to be a Title 1 commodity. Title 1 of the farm bill deals with commodities and specialized programs for dairy and sugar.

“You better start worrying about guys like me,” said Dan Smith, a cotton farmer and member of the Texas Farm Bureau Board of Directors in Lockney. “Therefore, you better start worrying about the entire industry. I am not kidding you, our backs are to the wall.”

Smith, who has been farming for 43 years, told the committee he had to pay more than $400 for a sack of cotton seed this year.

“That’s just not going to work,” he said. “We’ve got to have some help. Cotton has got to be a Title 1 commodity.”

Crop insurance, conservation, SNAP programs and the future of farming also were brought up as areas of concern for many commenters.

Several speakers shared stories and struggles of being generational farmers, and the worries they have of continuing that tradition for their children.

One farmer told the committee it’s been difficult for him and his family to obtain financing needed to operate equipment to grow his crop.

Another told the committee his family tradition of farming will not pass to his son.

“I’ve researched back into my family history and found out that farming has been in my family since the late 1800s,” he said. “My dad, my granddad, his dad, they’ve all farmed. “I will be the last one in my family.”

“All those things you’ve heard about — insurance, Title 1 — you know it’s needed,” said Mike Henson, a fifth-generation farmer of crops and cattle.

“When y’all are in that room and y’all are considering (these things), I want y’all to remember something — this is my life,” he said. “This is all people’s lives out here, and this is what we do. We enjoy what we do or we wouldn’t be doing it.”

“We realize the risks,” he continued. “We understand the trials. We understand the tough; we understand those things, and we’re willing to take that risk. I just want y’all to remember this is not just a business it’s a life and a lifestyle.”

Julie Holladay, Lubbock, Texas, representing Plains Cotton Growers, said, “It is imperative that cotton be included in Title I. That will not provide a windfall, but it will give us the ability to continue.”

She emphasized how important cotton is to the High Plains of Texas. On the farm she and her husband Shawn work, they provide income for five employees, multiple landowners and also contribute to the local economy through cotton gins, ag supply dealers and other businesses.

She said the investment they have made in their 10,000 acre cotton and peanut farm is threatened by declining prices and increasing production costs. “Over the last three years, the farm economy has witnessed the steepest decline since the Great Depression,” she said.

Tony Dill, a Brownfield peanut and cotton farmer, thanked the committee for including peanuts in the 2014 farm bill. “That offered price stability and a price floor to peanuts,” he said. He also expressed concern about the future of agriculture, especially for younger farmers. He noted that five young farmers in the Brownfield area went out of business last year. “They grew cotton and could not cash flow,” he said. “We have no future if we don’t do something to help young farmers. They have no equity to depend on.”

Partially from San Angelo Standard-Times

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Category: Agriculture, Updates