Producers give lawmakers input as Farm Bill develops

WASHINGTON — With the process to draft a 2012 Farm Bill accelerating, U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) said the wide range of views offered by agriculture producers are necessary for developing a successful 2012 Farm Bill.

The Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry conducted a hearing on some of the more complex aspects of farm policy. The panel received testimony on risk management tools and commodities from 14 witnesses, including Travis Satterfield of Benoit. Satterfield testified on behalf of the USA Rice Federation and U.S. Rice Producers Association.

The hearing was the last of a series of hearings leading up to a committee markup of a 2012 Farm Bill, possibly this spring. It focused on the necessity and cost-effectiveness of risk management tools available to farmers, such as Direct Payments and Federal Crop Insurance. It also looked at the pressures placed on these policies by federal budget constraints.

“It’s very valuable to have the benefit of farmers’ observations and experiences in production agriculture. The writing of a Farm Bill is really a sink or swim proposition. If we make a mistake, we really run the risk of hurting people, hurting our economy and disrupting the job market. Policy changes can have significant effects on agriculture production. I think that’s another reason we’ve seen over the years a lot of transition in agriculture, especially in the Deep South,” said Cochran, the former chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

Satterfield’s testimony provided a review of policies in the current 2008 Farm Bill that affect production of rice in the United States and “the importance of protecting our farmers from price volatility and rising input costs.”

“For rice producers, as for most other producers, the existing levels of price protection have simply not kept pace with the significant increases in production costs, costs such as energy and fertilizer that are exacerbated by escalating federal regulations,” Satterfield testified. “It is for this reason that rice farmers believe strengthening farm policies in the 2012 Farm Bill would be helpful in ensuring that producers have the ability to adequately manage their risks and access needed credit.”

The committee also received testimony from Michael Scuse, acting Undersecretary for Farm and Foreign Agriculture Services, farm insurance representatives and farmers representing soybean, corn, cotton, peanut and wheat producers.

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