DECATUR, Ill. — Crop insurance was by far the biggest concern of farmers and others attending a farm bill listening session at Richland Community College Aug. 30.
“Crop insurance is working. Don’t screw it up,” a Piatt County farmer told the committee.
His viewpoint was often repeated — sometimes in softer words — and the members of the U.S. House Ag Committee said they got that message loud and clear.
Rich Guebert, the Illinois Farm Bureau president who farms with his son in Randolph County, said the 2012 drought cost $3.5 billion in Illinois.
“Fortunately, there was crop insurance,” he said.
It saves the government from paying out disaster relief to farmers when there is a weather issue, he said.
U.S. House Ag. Committee Chairman Michael Conaway, R-Texas, said the flooding disasters in his home state are a “clear example” of why crop insurance is needed. Cotton farmers, for example, raced to get their harvest in before Hurricane Harvey, but now those bales of one of the best crops of cotton in years are floating in water. Cattle have been lost.
In addition to the formal three-hour listening session on campus, the seven members of the U.S. House Ag Committee toured the Farm Progress Show, talking to farmers and agribusiness people to hear their concerns and contributions. Conservation, nutrition, trade and research were addressed multiple times.
Phil Carson of Mt. Vernon, Ill., who is president of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, is also an advocate of building communities. He said that rural economic development grants are important tools for communities to grow.
Ken Maschhoff, speaking as a pork producer and National Pork Producers Council president, called for money to be spent on research. He also addressed the need for a vaccine to be available to fight foot and mouth disease. If an outbreak occurred, it would cost the agriculture industry $200 billion dollars, he said, quoting established data. Maschhoff would like the next farm bill to “establish a vaccine base to protect the U.S. economy, not just agriculture.”
John Williams, a third-generation corn, soybean and sorghum farmer, said agriculture needs stability.
“We need a farm bill written for the tough times we are currently in,” Williams said.
And Ron Moore, president of the American Soybean Association, expressed his concerns about exports.
“We need robust trade,” he said, and echoed comments stating the importance of agriculture research.
A dairy farmer expressed his concerns about immigration and employment regulations.
And conservation was on the mind of Richard Lyons, representing the Illinois Association of Drainage. He called for incentives for farmers to voluntarily adopt conservation practices.
This is the third listening session for the committee, which already held sessions in Texas and Minnesota. U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis said there was consistency in the issues raised in all three states. While the crops are different, comments and concerns are similar, he said.
Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., said this committee is well known for being bi-partisan and working to get things done. Five committee members present were Republican and two Democrats.
In U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson’s home state Minnesota, questions about the Renewable Fuel Standard were common, but only one person mentioned it here. He said the RFS is not in the ag committee’s jurisdiction, but it is a priority for him.
He said that legislation and the ethanol business keep corn from going back to $1.85.
“At that point, I don’t know who could afford to raise it (corn),” Peterson said.
U.S. Congressman Glenn Thompson, R-Penn., said he believes nutrition and agriculture should stay in the farm bill.
Conaway added, “The only people who want to separate them want both to fail.”
“Getting the farm bill on time is a pocket book issue for every American,” he said. “It affects the cost of food. Let’s not screw that up either.”