Eleven witnesses testifying at a Farm Bill field hearing in Arkansas called for stronger protections amid high production costs, as well as support for conservation measures, programs to increase the high throughput in rural areas and programs to fight against hunger.
WE Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and Senator John Boozman of Arkansas — chair and senior member of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, respectively — hosted the on-site hearing Friday at Arkansas State University.
The field hearings provide Congressional leaders and their staff with the opportunity to hear directly from a wide variety of stakeholders from this wide range of interest areas. Witnesses at Friday’s hearing represented agriculture and related interests, including commodities, specialty crops and infrastructure such as water, power and internet access, all funded in part by the current Farm Bill, enacted in 2018.
“The primary concern of farmer groups leading up to a 2023 farm bill is, unsurprisingly, record input prices,” said John Andersonchief of agricultural economics and agribusiness for the Agriculture System Division of the University of Arkansas and the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences.
“High production costs render the current support programs based on producer prices in the current Farm Bill largely ineffective,” he said. “Producer groups are expressing a strong interest in some form of cost-based indexation for reference prices and/or some sort of margin protection that takes into account rising prices of key inputs – mainly fuel and fertilizers.”
Anderson said, “The challenge for congressional agriculture committees with this type of program design will be finding money in the budget to pay for it.”
Nathan Rosea Lee County farmer and president of the U.S. Cotton Growers, said the agricultural risk hedging and price loss hedging in the 2018 Farm Bill “has worked well for growers and should continue in future Farms.” Bills”.
“Agricultural markets are cyclical and an effective safety net is imperative for the inevitable periods of low prices,” Reed said.
Marc Morgan, a fifth-generation farmer who owns Peach Pickin’ Paradise in Johnson County, has called for changes to insurance products for specialty crop growers. Special crops are defined as fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, and horticultural and nursery crops, including floriculture.
“The insurance buyouts available to producers for better coverage are prohibitively expensive, due to the high premiums,” he said, adding that the Farm Disaster Assistance program requirements no insured, or NAP, “are often unachievable”.
“This leaves many specialty crop growers without any risk protection. A more economical insurance program or improvements to the NAP program would greatly benefit Arkansas peach growers,” Morgan said.
The Farm Bill funds more than agricultural programs. It also includes nutrition programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP; and WIC, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, account for about 80% of Farm Bill spending, Anderson said.
The farm bill also includes support for, among other things, conservation programs, rural development initiatives such as broadband, alternative energy development, animal disease management and mitigation, and research on land grants and outreach efforts.
A replay and copies of the witness statements are on line.