Farm policy is always on the minds of producers, especially while Congress is skating by this year with a temporary farm bill extension that will expire in September. And although that's still five months away, Congressman Randy Neugebauer said that ag committees still have some challenges to overcome.
"When I look at the demographics of some of the members on the House Ag Committee today and where they came from, many of those folks don't come from farming areas," Neugebauer said.
But despite those challenges, a budget is the first thing committees must agree upon to start shaping a new bill.
"The main priority before September is to obviously get our spending bills done, working with the debt ceilings coming up for me to get a farm bill done," Neugebauer said. "But really we need to get America back on track and start living within our means. We're spending money that we don't have and it's not sustainable."
Overwhelmingly funding for the farm bill goes straight to the nutrition portion of the program. That's money that could possibly be directed back to production agriculture under the revamping process of a new farm bill.
"What's happened over the years is that the food stamp program is growing exponentially. And really the percentage of money that's going to production agriculture is shrinking," Neugebauer said. "And so as we're running these huge deficits, we have to look across the board for ways to start living within our means, and one of the things we've got to do is look for reforms in that program. One in seven Americans today are on food stamps. Some of those people may need to be on there, but I think many of us believe it's too easy to get on it and we need to encourage people to go back to work and not necessarily be on the food stamp program."
The future of crop insurance was also mentioned. Congressman Neugebauer will re-introduce his proposed crop insurance bill to the ag committee in an effort to maintain a strong safety net for America's producers who are feeding and clothing our nation.
"Crop insurance is a major part of that, and I think one of the things these last few years where we've had these droughts, producers and people have begun to realize how important it is to have that safety net where when mother nature has not been very kind to us, they have the ability to fall back on a crop insurance proposal," Neugebauer said. "And so I've introduced a crop insurance bill that was a major part of the bill that was passed out of the House Ag Committee last year. I'm going to re-introduce that legislation, and I'm pretty hopeful that it will be a major part of the new farm bill."
And progress could be seen as early as this month, hopefully avoiding procrastination into the summer.
"I'm hopeful that we can start in April or May working on a five year farm bill to give producers across the country some certainty of what the farm policy in this country will be for the next five years," Neugebauer said.