Witnesses Testify At Farm Bill Hearing In Wichita

By: Chris Frank / Associated Press Email
By: Chris Frank / Associated Press Email

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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Kansas farmers and rural leaders have told the U.S. Senate committee drafting the new Farm Bill that the federal crop insurance program is critical to Kansas agriculture.

Their testimony came Thursday during a Wichita hearing of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry as it grapples with recommendations for budget cuts amid a devastating
drought.

Today's hearing in Wichita gave Kansas farm groups and political leaders a chance to weigh in on changes they would like to see on the farm bill. Dry conditions are severely decreasing the amount of grain being harvested by Kansas farmers like Ryan Speer this year, yet at the same time, some northeastern Kansas farmers lost crops due to flooding. Both are examples of why farmers still need the federal farm bill as a safety net.

Republican Sen. Pat Roberts, along with the committee's chairwoman, Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, said the panel has until Oct. 14 to give the budget-cutting "super committee" its recommendations for farm program cuts. Stabenow told about 300 Kansans at the hearing that she considers the farm bill a jobs bill because 16 million people work in agriculture.

One of the other issues considered was crop insurance. Banks often require crop insurance before lending money to farmers for planting.
Kansas Farm Bureau President Steve Baccus testified farmers
cannot afford higher premiums for crop insurance. The Farm Bill subsidizes crop insurance to encourage farmers to insure crops. Leaders said they want that to continue.

Republican Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback testified for the need of a policy to extend the life of the Ogallalah Aquifer that western Kansas farmers tap into to irrigate their crops. The aquifer is declining, and if it were lost, would greatly harm the western Kansas economy.

But it is a drive to cut all federal spending which is also driving the current farm bill debate. The requirement to cut trillions from the federal budget make the Farm Bill debate more challenging, and perhaps put more farm programs at risk.

Keep in mind, that 84% of the AG budget pays for nutrition programs such as school lunches, not farm programs.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.


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