By BECKY GILLETTE
Current Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) has announced the committee will begin hearings this year to set the stage for writing a new farm bill. The current farm bill doesn’t expire until 2018, which gives the House and Senate time to work with the Trump Administration to set new farm bill policies, said Chris Gallegos, spokesman for Sen. Thad Cochran.
“Senator Cochran is familiar with the risks associated with farming,” Gallegos said. As work begins on a new farm bill, he will continue to support policies to help protect farmers in down times.”
Gallegos said as the ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Cochran worked hard to include the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) program in the 2014 Farm Bill. PLC is designed to provide farmers with protection against adverse market conditions. Under PLC, support goes up when prices go down. The PLC program alone provided $46 million in support to 3,000 Mississippi farms for the 2014 crop year, and increased to $67.8 million to 6,000 farms for the 2015 crop year. PLC payments for the 2016 crop year, which will be distributed this fall, are expected to be far greater as commodity prices remain on a downward trend.
Ag experts said the current farm bill could have been much worse for rice farmers had it not been for Cochran, who helped promote the idea of a price-based option.
“Rice growers could have ended up with just an ARC program option with no target price,” Gallegos said. “Sen. Cochran knows the federal government cannot eliminate all of the risks associated with farming. Going forward, however, a good place to start should involve fewer regulations and a strong farm safety net that offers producers choices based on the crops they grow, and the unique risks associated with those crops. “
Cochran thinks it would be good for the new bill to include enhanced support mechanisms for cotton producers. He also supports improvements to crop insurance programs so that they better reflect the risks specific to agriculture in the South.